A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 212: Canada’s Painted Grandeur, Part 1

Thomson Sunset 1915

Tom Thomson, Sunset, 1915

“Take everything as it comes; the wave passes, deal with the next one.” – Tom Thomson (1877-1917)

For the next couple of weeks I hope to soak up as much beauty as I can in the little corner of my adopted country of Canada. Over those days I will present Canada’s Painted Grandeur through images from the country’s most celebrated clan of artists, the Group of  Seven. Ironically, this look at the Seven will be in ten parts! That is, not only the Seven, but their main influence and two of their contemporaries.

It is fitting today to share a painting by Tom Thomson, a man who died far too young but gave inspiration that has lasted for a hundred years (so far). He is the main influence on the Group of Seven and on thousands of artists to this day.  In his work he embodies the spirit of Canada: a wildness and humbleness, a colorful display that is very much alive and thriving.

Over the next two weeks you’ll see how each of these artists, through their own unique vision of the Canadian wilderness, were able to imprint an image to the soul of their young country.


A Day of Creating Dangerously, Day 211: Sunday God Quote – Martel


Canadian author Yann Martel, most famous for Life of Pi, provides today’s God Quote:

“If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.”

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 210: Saturday Life Quotes – Frost

robert frost

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

Robert Frost (1874-1963). American poet extraordinaire, provides today’s Life Quotes:

“Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense.”

“A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman’s birthday but never remembers her age.”

“The best way out is always through.”

“Nothing can make injustice just but mercy.”

“Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.”

“A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain.”

“Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.”

“Freedom lies in being bold.”

“Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.”

“Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.”

“I’m not confused. I’m just well mixed.”

“Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee, and I’ll forgive Thy great big joke on me.”

“There never was any heart truly great and generous, that was not also tender and compassionate.”



A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 209: Birches

Birch, Mer Bleu 2

Mer Bleu Birches, Ron Kok, 2016, Watercolor Pencils


By Robert Frost
When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father’s trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 208: The Almost Orphaned Painting Finds a Home


Five Birch, Ron Kok, Acrylic on canvas, 2017

Sometimes a canvas sits around, lonely and unloved, for a long time, like an orphaned urchin on the street, until that certain someone comes along and gives it love.

“Five Birch” is now a completed painting, but for the better part of three years it was a cast-off, a painting in search of a reason to exist. I had started an idea, painting the background a sky blue, but then I moved on to other things. In fact, at the time I wasn’t painting at all but drawing, not even secure in the knowledge that I could paint (having hardly touched brush to paint for twenty-five years).

I often find myself with unused paint which a student of mine has left on a palette. So over time, I just added colors to this canvas, not really having a solid plan for where it was going. Eventually, I stopped doing that and the canvas sat quietly and forlornly in a back corner, sometimes being moved around to make room for more important artwork. But, truth be told, I never completely abandoned it. I never painted over it or gave it to someone else to use. Perhaps I had some feeling for it after all…

However, it wasn’t until a co-worker of mine picked up that nary-a-work-in-progress and said, “I love this!” that it seemed possible for this canvas to amount to something after all. In fact, she wanted to take it home, little sad urchin that it was, but I protested, “It’s not finished!” (Realizing, as I said this, that I didn’t have a plan for finishing the thing, like, AT ALL).

That was about a year ago. Since then, that co-worker was injured at work and we haven’t seen her around for over three months. Being the kind of personality that she is, we’ve all missed her. Thinking of that and that love she showed for that near-rejected canvas, it got me motivated to actually finishing it. It was time.


I layered paint with palette knives to get the birch texture as well as layering colors, trying to get the feel of the bark. I added some color and additional lines to the background and… I had a painting I could be proud to give to that co-worker who’s heart was big enough to love it even before I did.

Yesterday I delivered the painting to her house, had a great visit with her and the wonderful man in her life (they are soon to be married) and, best of all, got my photo taken with their pooch, Maverick. All in all, a journey worth the three years.


A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 207: The Beautiful Tattoo Art of Pis Saro


Tattoos have long-ago lost their negative stigma. Now they are a commonplace and (mostly) accepted art form. Because of that, many artists have taken inking the skin to a whole new creative level. Pis Saro, a Ukranian tattoo artist, is a prime example of that. She bases her tattoo designs on watercolors and uses human skin as a canvas for some delicate and beautiful work.

Pis Saro

Pis Saro

You can find more examples of her work on her Instagram.


A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 205: Play On, Seriously Play

silent winters house concert

Play On, Seriously Play

Two voices, one guitar, a little big space for sharing
Adds up to something small in simple language

Words words and melodies, we hear them all the time
From malls to cars to bars to little big spaces

People listen, full to somewhat at attention, ears open
Going in one and out the other, brief rests in between

Music common background noise, soundtrack to mundane
Music adds up to thousands of voices, words, melodies – Rinse, Repeat

Common, everyday, background, noise, rattle, hum, drum
We crave, we ingest, we desire, we inject, never enough

Realize, without voices, guitars, bass, keys, drums
The Void consumes, the Monster tramples on and on and on

What is common battles the brutal, background destroys banal
Two voices, one guitar, weapons of mass destruction

Words and melodies create the war dance, move the feet
That trample the tramplers, consume the consumers

The singer stands in the Void, guitarist leaps in the breach
The onslaught is fiercly met, repulsed again, beaten back beat

Courageously fearful, head long into it because they must
Stem the tide, strum the chords that shake spears and shatter shields

Open your mouth, give the cry to those choked with acrid fumes
Let words flow in a stream to ease their throats, give them grace

Play on, play, play, seriously play as play wins the day, play
Strings and keys, sticks and skins, swing and shimmy, rock that roll

Soft, loud, shattered, fine, kind, angry, bitter, adoring, sad and overjoyed
No matter – Play on, play, play, seriously just play til you win the day

This little big space we share needs your voices, your guitar, your words
Fill it up with the excess of your soul, your blues, your emotional vent

Two voices, one guitar, a little big space for sharing
Adds up to something not so common after all

Cruelty consumed by compassion, grace kicks despair’s ass
Music a soundtrack for the victorious battle scene

Is it seen that way? Often the fight goes unnoticed, granted taken
But music exists to give life to existence, to extinguish the heartless flame

We crave, we listen, we open our hearts to music’s incisions
To bleed out our love, our sorrow, our pain, our laughter, our hopes

Its uncommon commonality fools us, fools us with its wisdom
Truth is: We can’t live without it, or it without us – Music, play on


By Ron Kok, written July 23, 2017 after attending a house concert performance by Silent Winters in Russell, Ontario


Please check out Silent Winters, a new Canadian folk duo:

http://www.silentwinters.com | http://www.twitter.com/silentswinterss | http://www.facebook.com/silentwintersmusic | http://www.soundcloud.com/silentwinters | http://www.instagram.com/silentwinters


A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 204: Talking Animals

E and Bunsen

Photo by Elias Kok

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.” – A.A. Milne

I live in an animal-loving household. We have given love and care to dogs, cats, rats, mice, bunnies, hamsters, guinea pigs, a cockatiel and a canary called Atticus Finch. We have rescued squirrel babies and cared for injured birds. My home is alive with much more than human activity and because of that I truly believe the people who live here have a tremendous capacity for compassion.

Just yesterday we had a tragedy in our animal kingdom as my son’s beloved rat, Bunsen, died. I did not realize until I got to know Bunsen just how smart and loving rats truly can be. She was a sweetheart who was thoroughly in love with my son. We all mourned with him as she meant so much to him but also to all of us.

For those who have never given love to an animal, or allowed an animal to love them, these sentiments may sound ridiculous. But I have come to realize over the years that the truly ridiculous thing is a human being without the capacity to hold an animal close to their heart. Clearly, we were created for that connection. Clearly, there is more to the purpose of animal life on this planet than to serve our selfish needs.  Our ability to feel and give compassion is directly related to our openness to animals. Of this I am absolutely certain.

But don’t just take my word for it. Normally on Sundays in this blog I have published God Quotes. Today, instead, are quotes about animals and human kind, together from the beginning of the “In the beginning” of the Bible. In Scripture it seems we are inseparable. We should all take note of that and realize that perhaps God is attempting to speak to us all through animals. Maybe we would listen better if we accepted that truth.

“Animals are not property or “things” but rather living organisms, subjects of a life, who are worthy of our compassion, respect, friendship, and support.” – Marc Bekoff, Minding Animals

“If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man. All things are connected.” – Chief Seattle, Suwamish Tribe, in a letter to President Franklin Pierce

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France

“Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness.” – Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church

“Animals are more than ever a test of our character, of mankind’s capacity for empathy and for decent, honorable conduct and faithful stewardship. We are called to treat them with kindness, not because they have rights or power or some claim to equality, but in a sense because they don’t; because they all stand unequal and powerless before us. Animals are so easily overlooked, their interests so easily brushed aside. Whenever we humans enter their world, from our farms to the local animal shelter to the African savanna, we enter as lords of the earth bearing strange powers of terror and mercy alike.” – Matthew Scully, Dominion

“Only animals were not expelled from Paradise.” – Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

“Animals are such agreeable friends — they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” – George Eliot. Mr. Gilfil’s Love Story

“I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the “lower animals” (so called) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me.” – Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth

“God gave unto the Animals
A wisdom past our power to see:
Each knows innately how to live,
Which we must learn laboriously.” – Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood

“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.” – Martin Buber, I and Thou

“If a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from injury to animals.” – Leo Tolstoy, The First Step

“I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contained. I stand and look at them long and long.” – Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass


A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 203 – Saturday Life Quote – Linkin Park


“Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well I do”

I cannot claim to be a Linkin Park fan but my 20-year old son, Elias, certainly can. He has the CD and T-shirt collection to prove it. But more importantly, the music of Linkin Park has meant a great deal to him. He has battled through anxiety and depression and found solace and expression through the band’s lyrics and sound.  Over the years I’ve come to appreciate Linkin Park because I love my son, and I very much understand how something like a rock band can help you through some dark times. That is why, in my household, the news of Chester Bennington’s suicide hit very hard. In a touching Facebook post, Elias included lyrics from one of Linkin Park’s songs called “One More Light”. The words are extremely poignant, even more so now in the wake of Chester’s death. I decided to share them today for the Saturday Life Quote.

This is just more proof that you never really know who’s struggling. Even though someone may seem fine, there may be something in their mind that pushes them over the edge. Hold on to those you love, and hold on to them so they can’t be pulled away from you by the cruelness of this world.” – Elias

One More Light

Should’ve stayed, were there signs, I ignored?
Can I help you, not to hurt, anymore?
We saw brilliance, when the world, was asleep
There are things that we can have, but can’t keep

If they say
Who cares if one more light goes out?
In a sky of a million stars
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone’s time runs out?
If a moment is all we are
We’re quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well I do

The reminders pull the floor from your feet
In the kitchen, one more chair than you need oh
And you’re angry, and you should be, it’s not fair
Just ’cause you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it, isn’t there

If they say
Who cares if one more light goes out?
In a sky of a million stars
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone’s time runs out?
If a moment is all we are
We’re quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well I do

Who cares if one more light goes out?
In a sky of a million stars
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone’s time runs out?
If a moment is all we are
We’re quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well I do

Well I do

Written by Brad Delson, Chester Charles Bennington, Dave Farrell, Francis White, Joseph Hahn, Mike Shinoda, Robert G. Bourdon • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group