A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 90: Picking Dandelions


Picking Dandelions

“Picking Dandelions”, Ronald Kok, 2017, Oil pastels on paper

A simple post for today. One evening this week I took some time for my own art therapy and drew the picture above, based on a photo of my daughter from when she was four or five years old. I’ve always loved this photo of my little girl, picking dandelions while wearing a crown of them in her hair. Though I don’t think I depicted her well (I’ll definitely be revisiting this image), my goal was an impressionistic sense of the moment; sunshine, green grass, bright yellow flowers. It is a bright memory which always lightens my heart.

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 89: The Painted Village


If it is charming and a little magical, it is probably European. So it is with the Painted Village, AKA Zalipie, Poland. Thanks to my addiction to the Mental Floss site, I was recently introduced to something that has been around for over one hundred years: the beautifully painted cottages of this Polish village. The story goes that a resident painted flowers over soot stains in their house. From that simple beginning sprang a village culture of folk art. Now Zalipie residents paint flowers on just about every available surface; their cottages, of course, but also their businesses and barns and churches, their doghouses, their wells, and even their trees.

In 1948 a contest was started to be the most beautifully decorated cottage in Zalipie. It was begun to help exorcise the demons of the War that ravaged Poland. That idea helped me realize that sometimes painted flowers are just painted flowers; but at other times painted flowers are a means to health and peace, of mind and body, not just for some but for a community, for a country.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get to Zalipie in my lifetime but I am thankful places like this exist in the world. The Painted Village gives me more hope than a lifetime of political speeches or sermons from the pulpit.

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A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 88: Will of the People

will rogers

Will Rogers (1879-1935) was a Native American actor, writer and humorist who was called “The Cowboy Philosopher”. He is well known for his wry and satirical musings on so many aspects of life but his political comments were what struck me the most as I scanned his quotes. In a sadly comforting way, Rogers’ perspectives on politics remain as pertinent as ever, despite the fact that he said them almost one hundred years ago.

Below are a few examples of his art: wordplay and humor which sound so contemporary in the light of the U.S. political scene in 2017. One can only wonder what he’d have to say if he was still around but it likely would have been funny and insightful all at the same time.

A fool and his money are soon elected.

Last year we said, ‘Things can’t go on like this’, and they didn’t, they got worse.

I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.

The 1928 Republican Convention opened with a prayer. If the Lord can see His way clear to bless the Republican Party the way it’s been carrying on, then the rest of us ought to get it without even asking.

The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.

If I studied all my life, I couldn’t think up half the number of funny things passed in one session of congress.

There’s no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.

Liberty doesn’t work as well in practice as it does in speeches.

About all I can say for the United States Senate is that it opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation.

If Stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?




A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 87: Women, Artistically Speaking


Henri Matisse, Portrait of Lydia Delectorska

I’ve been thinking about women a lot lately. Nothing to worry about, that’s fairly normal for me. Plus, the month of March includes International Women’s Day. We also saw the “Day Without Women” protest transpire this month. It got me thinking about Art Without Women. Frankly (and ironically), that’s almost unthinkable. Women have been the muse and subject matter of so many artists throughout the centuries that it would be impossible to consider the history of art without them.

Of course, in art, as in all other areas of society women have been objectified. But I believe art, for the most part, has helped to give a profound and significant image of women, one that reaches far beyond the superficial. There are countless examples of works that show women in so many facets: tender, strong, intelligent, fierce, graceful, vulnerable, soft, resilient, powerful, beautiful, compassionate and creative. All in all, art has served to present a true representation of the feminine spirit. As a man, I know art in its many forms has helped me to gain a greater appreciation for women in a society that still has a long way to go to reach full equality.

So, in praise and honor of women, I give you a gallery of images of women in art, some famous, some not-so-much. These are all simply of my choosing. I am sure there are better and more comprehensive lists and galleries than this.  But I offer them as a part of my perspective.

A world without women would be a pathetic place. Art without women? Well, it would be even more pathetic still.


Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa


Frida Kahlo, Self Portrait with Necklace


Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets

Mother And Child 7

Mary Cassatt, Woman with Child


Claude Monet, Madame Monet and Child


Edgar Degas, Dancers at the Barre

Albert Marquet

Albert Marquet, Standing Nude


Mary Cassatt, The Long Gloves


Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergere


Pablo Picasso, The Dream

Women harvesting paul klee

Paul Klee, Women Harvesting

young peasant girl in straw hat 1890

Vincent Van Gogh, Young Peasant Woman in Straw Hat


Edgar Degas, After the Bath


Albert Marquet, Portrait of Marcelle Marquet


Paul Gauguin, Tahitian Women on the Beach


Johannes Vermeer, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter


Edgar Degas, Women Ironing


Henri Matisse, Women with Hat

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Andy Warhol, Ingrid Bergman with Hat


Henri de Toulouse-Latrec, Portrait of Suzanne Valadon


Claude Monet, Woman with Parasol

Young woman at table henri de toulouse latrec

Henri de Toulouse-Latrec, Young Woman at the Table


Johannes Vermeer, Girl with the Pearl Earring

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 86: The Art of Propaganda


This past week I was in Hamilton, Ontario with my son visiting the Warplane Heritage Museum. As has been the case for me this year, while embarking on my daily blog project, I have been tuned in more acutely to the presence of art around me in my day. A visit to a museum dedicated to warplanes seems like an unlikely place to find art, right? Well…

It so happens that the museum has an excellent collection of World War Two era propaganda posters. The graphic style of the artwork from that era is something that has filtered into our popular culture. It was used to great effect in the wonderful credits at the end the first Captain America movie. What is often overlooked is the artistry of those posters. Real artists created those posters. Of course, the posters were made and mass produced in order to spur the public on in support of the war effort. But that can’t take away from the quality of the images and the creativity of the artists.

I present below a gallery of the posters on display at the museum. I’ve decided to include some of the museum’s descriptions as I found them helpful and enlightening. I was particularly impressed by the posters criticized in their day, dubbed the “blonde bombshell” and the “Russianized young lady”.  So many of these images seem to predate the graphic art style of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, not to mention an army of super-hero comic illustrators. The name Abram Games pops up a lot in this gallery, perhaps he needs to be given his due.

To begin, here is the museum’s description of the collection:

In a time where the internet and social media were not even words in the dictionary, posters were a popular form of communication. The Bureau of Public Information and later the Wartime Information Board (WIB) undertook an extensive propaganda campaign to generate support for the war. Each poster was created by an artist to entice the general public through colour, composition and design to become engaged in the war effort at hand. Posters were the ideal mode of conveying messages because they were relatively inexpensive to produce, they could be designed, printed and distributed in a relatively short period of time and they were visually stimulating. Recruitment and propaganda posters were printed in a wide variety of sizes and could be hung on anything from billboards, shop windows to theatres and even on buses and streetcars. The images made a statement without too many words or phrases, making an immediate impact on people’s values and attitudes. After their main purpose was fulfilled in the 1940’s, we were left with works of art which tell the story of Canada’s journey to make the ultimate sacrifice during one of the country’s most historically important time periods. 


Pat Keely, Free Holland Welcomes the Allies, 1944

Poster printed in London in 1944 at the behest of the Polish government in exile when the assumption was the war would be over by Christmas… (Keely) envisions a victory parade route, brilliantly hung with allied flags, doubling as a ghostly crusaders sword with the welcoming Dutch soldier standing at the crossroads. The allies as modern crusaders was an omnipresent theme during the war… An ingenious and joyful design that unfortunately, could not be used until the spring of 1945. 


William Little, Freedom Shall Prevail, 1941


Abram Games, RAMC Parachute Units, 1944


Abram Games, A.T.S., 1942

The representation of women in posters aroused considerable controversy during the 1939-45 war, notably over the use of glamour…  In 1941 a major recruiting campaign for the ATS was immediately criticized for making its girls too glamourous. The poster, nicknamed the “blond bombshell” had to be withdrawn and replaced by a poster using a photo of a real ATS private… In 1942, Games designed a second ATS poster with what was described as a “slightly Russianized young lady”. 


Abram Games, Recruit poster for the Auxiliary Territorial Service, 1941


Artist Unknown, Let’s Go, Step it Up Boys, 1942


Artist Unknown, The Men are Ready – Only You Can Give Them Wings, 1940-41


Abram Games, Radio Location, 1942


Artist Unknown, This Means Delay – This Victory, 1939-45


Russell Tabor, To Victory With Our Help, 1942


Artist Unknown,Britain’s Aircraft Exhibition,1949


Abram Games, Army: the Worthwhile Job, 1946

This was the last Games’ war poster. After VE Day the war office destroyed all remaining  award winning Abram Games posters. 






A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 84: Saturday Life Quotes #12


She was the bawdy master of the double entendre but also had some things to say about life. She is the incomparable Mae West…

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

“I’m single because I was born that way.”

“I’m no model lady. A model’s just an imitation of the real thing.”

“A dame that knows the ropes isn’t likely to get tied up.”

“Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.”

“You are never too old to become younger!”

“Love conquers all things except poverty and toothache.”

“Everyone has the right to run his own life- even if you’re heading for a crash. What I’m against is blind flying.”

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 83: Imagine


In the wake of the terrible news coming from London regarding a terrorist attack, these words from an English son came to mind.

Keep up the only fight that matters, peacemakers.

Imagine by John Lennon

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 82: Discovering Maud Lewis


Since I began my Creating Dangerously project for 2017 (a blog post every day this year centered on creativity, arts and artists) I have noticed that I am much more in tune to the possibility of discovering something wonderful almost every day. My senses have become much more heightened where creativity is concerned. So it was that when I went to see a movie this past weekend at Ottawa’s Bytowne Theatre, I saw a poster for an upcoming movie, Maudie. At first, my daughter and I picked up on the fact that it was staring Hawkins and Hawke (whatarethechances?). But I also noticed the painted background right away. “Hold on,” I thought, “Is this a movie about an artist? Who is ‘Maudie’ anyway? Hmmm…”

I received an answer while watching the trailers played before our film. Maudie is a movie about Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis (1903-1970) born, raised and lived all her life in Nova Scotia. I didn’t get all that from the movie trailer, of course. I got that from doing research on an artist I had never heard of before. And when I started digging, I couldn’t believe that I had never heard of her. I had “discovered” another gem.


Maud Lewis lived all of her life in poverty. She was afflicted with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Yet despite this, with the encouragement of her fish peddler husband, Everett, she churned out hundreds of paintings, intended to make a few dollars to add to the household income. She mostly painted on a very small format, 8 by 10 inch boards (due to her limited movement because of arthritis), with oil paints straight from the tube, no mixing. In the 1950’s she began to sell her paintings from the front yard of her home. Her asking price? Two to three dollars apiece. It wasn’t until just a few years before her death that she raised the price to seven to ten dollars instead. Today, one of her paintings sold at auction for over $22,000.

The Lewis home became an artwork itself as Maudie would paint just about any surface available. In fact, years after her death, when the house was getting run down, a group of people made it possible for the place to be preserved. More so, they were able to get the home housed for good inside the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Below are photos of the exterior and interior of that home, a one-room dwelling with a loft bedroom:

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There are times the art world looks down its nose on “folk art” as things can tend toward the kitschy and overly, almost patronizingly, quaint. But Maud Lewis’ work is undeniably profound, bright, charming, fun and sums up a view of the Maritime lifestyle of her times. She painted her world and she painted her personality. One documentary on her life is subtitled “a World Without Shadows”; indeed, Lewis’ paintings are the kind of thing that remove any darkness from the viewer’s mind and replace it with sweet sunshine. You can’t help but feel a little lighter after looking at her joyful artworks.

I’ve included here just a few examples of her work. I found them so enjoyable and so inhabitable, that is, places where I wanted to be! Right now! Thank you, Maudie.

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A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 81: the Earth as Art from Space, part 2


Yesterday I shared ph0tos taken from the International Space Station. I enjoyed the beauty and power of those so much that I decided it was worth a Part 2! This time ’round, I’m linking you in to The Telegraph website and photos taken by Canadian astronaut, Col. Chris Hadfield, from his book, You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes.

Again, I was struck by the abstract-art elements of these photos, the intense colors and lines, and the fact that our earth is such an incredible Masterpiece. Enjoy.