Sunday, May 25, 2014



Normally, I am always happy to go to Market, whatever may betide, but with a guitar and harp – not a drawing pencil and sketch pad!  

Cap-a-pie I wore my black and white checker bowler (purchased at Madame Yes in Regina), a long-sleeved crisp white shirt with a collar (purchased in Paris), a pair of short pants (purchased in Amsterdam), and my Barcelona sandals.  (Subliminally, I was an artist of international renown.) 

Mise-en-scene I rolled out a matt, put some sample portraits on display, beside which I set up two camp stools, one for the consumer, one for the artist. 

My first hour at the market was a flounder, compensated by time spent visiting my neighbor vendors – there was no action at my draw-site!  I had angst going to the market, and sitting and standing around without any consumers was not, at all, therapeutic.

Finally!  A smiling young lady asks if I can draw a portrait of her four month old son.  Yikes!  I had not thought about drawing toddlers!

My first paying customer -- it was time for me put my pencil to paper and impress! Kaiven, the four month old son, wriggled around and around, as did I to keep his visage in my line of pencil sight.   

That is so like him, I love it!” the young mother said when I finished.  Though my mat display reads, PENCIL PORTRAITS $10.00, she gave me twenty dollar bill, insisting I keep the $10.00 tip!  Kaiven and his mom proved to by the anodyne for my morning market angst.

Then along came barbate John.                          

Will you draw me? “he asked.  John, 67 years old, is a retired provincial public servant.  Because of his unusual tam and signature beard, John presented to me as being the archetype of the easy draw.  John loved his portrait and told me he was going to advertise for me, vocally, as he strolled down the market! (With permission I took his picture with my iPhone.)


Mother and daughter, Kerry and Kaitlyn, from Saskatoon, asked if I could draw them together on one page. 

"Of course," I replied (never having expected this).  This happy twosome was in Regina at a hockey tournament, and hockey was our chat about for the 20 minutes it took me draw them.  I love talking hockey and they loved their finished product!

Another toddler, Marcus!  Marcus, like toddler Kaiven, wriggled around and around.  Even so, I did manage to complete his portrait in about ten minutes.  Both his mom and grandmother loved it, and gave me a $10.00 tip!  I now know that toddlers mean tips -- I shall remember this for next week when I again take my pencil to market! (With permission, I took a picture of Marcus on my iPhone.)


Several portraits later I had the pleasure of meeting two thirty-year olds, Courtney and Steve.  What a treat!  Both were from the city of Regina, and both were contemplating ditching their present jobs and moving to Banff (my kind of people, my kind of adventure)!  Courtney’s beatific smile was worth a gazillion dollars, and this chat, in particular, was a glorious way to end my day at the market. 

Drat!  I had forgotten to take their picture on my iPhone!  As I packed my bag, I thought maybe if I strolled through the market I would find them!  No such luck.   

A lesson learned, I thought to myself.  Exiting the market and walking down Victoria Avenue, I noticed the two of them sipping drinks on the outdoor coffee patio at Atlantis!  I approached them and they consented to have their picture taken for this blog!  This is PHENOMENOLOGY!

Could doing these pencil portraits be the apex of my busking career, or just another piece in my busking bildungsroman?  Hmm ... drawing portraits seems more debonair than thrumming a guitar.  Guitar busking compared to pencil portraiture is like comparing a flivver to a Ferrari.

Having spent just one morning drawing pencil portraits I’ve gained considerable marketing insight. For example, chubby cheeks and double chins are in for toddlers, out for adults.  Mothers find such embonpoint adorable; whereas, plumb adults desire pencil surgery, and shall judge their portraits accordingly.  Contributing to consumer vanity pays higher and heartfelt dividends.

Drawing pencil portraits at the market is really a maxixe, a two-step dance of accomplished drawing techniques whilst engaging the consumer in delightful conversation.  If a third step were to be included in this dance of the draw, it would be time.  In just one morning I’ve discovered that ten minutes seems the perfect number of minutes allotted for the portraits.  The longer it takes, more photograph-like the expectation.

Hmmm … all of the above is what I think I know.   

Hmmm … this is what I do know …

The pencil never lies!

Sunday, May 18, 2014


An adventure is any enterprise that is potentially fraught with psychological risk, such as a business venture, a love affair, or other life undertakings.  When I first began to busk, I was on an adventure.  I had anxieties, mainly instrumental and vocal competence and confidence issues.  That first summer of busking on the mean streets in Victoria, British Columbia, was a tough gig.  (No, the streets are not mean in Victoria, but it does sound better as a descriptor, not?)  It was a business risk.  It was not as exciting as a love affair, but did have the trappings of other life undertakings.  My Victoria busk happened eight years ago – I’m still busking.

An adventure is an experience that creates psychological arousal.  This arousal could be negative (FEAR) or positive (FLOW).  Fear is only a delusion; however, the lack of fear is also a delusion.  Flow is the mental state of being in the moment … in the zone.

My first time busking in Victoria was a tough gig because I didn’t have FLOW – I had only FEAR.  I had only fear because I did not know what I was doing.  I didn’t have the right song lists (I carried three binders of songs); I didn’t have the right equipment (I had everything, the binders, a shaker, a cowboy costume of green leather boots and a white hat, ; I didn’t have the right locations (I never then  realized that you need crowds to make coin).  In a line, I was a novice.

And I’ve had other fears previous (to busking).  When I defended my Master’s Thesis, to the External Examiner, my academic committee members, and the guests from academia who chose to attend, I had FEAR.  And I survived to tell about it.

When I had to play the glockenspiel in front of five hundred live audience members, including among them our Premier of the province, I had fear.  I was strategically placed high in the rafter seats, sitting among members of the audience, plunking as the keyboard echo for the Christmas song, Do You Hear What I Hear, knowing that any error would be so noticeable, not only to the live audience, but to the live television audience, too.  That was my one and only time ever (playing) on the glockenspiel.  I had FEAR.  And I survived to tell about it.

Adventurous activities are typically undertaken for the purposes of recreation and excitement.  I want new and exciting experiences.  I must want adventure, but not the ilk of rolling over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Here is my latest attempt at adventure.  My son, Travers, lives in Amsterdam.  Last November he spent the entire month in Afghanistan conducting interviews with people in the city, people in the country, members of the military, to determine whether or not the U.S. Military interventions have improved the conditions for the citizens, a deconstruction of the construction efforts so to speak. 

Anyway … a Dutch journalist, whom he befriended, happened to be writing a book about the Taliban.  For the book publication she decided not to have a photograph, she wanted a pencil portrait of Hamid Karzai on the cover.  Travers enlisted me because … in braggadocio fashion, I have the uncanny ability to draw people’s faces!  Here is my pencil sketch of a hatless President of Afghanistan.


Travers then wanted me to sketch a picture of him for his academic website.  Here is that pencil portrait.

And then this past Saturday, I took my talent to the market.  I also packed my guitar just in case (pun intended).  I thought I would thrum awhile, then work up the nerve, jettison the FEAR, get into a FLOW, and sketch people for $10 a head. 

It turned out I could not just jettison the FEAR.  The FLOW I was accustomed to experiencing whilst guitar busking, did not transcend in my mind’s eye, to my enterprise of portraiture.  After three hours of guitar busking, I could not shake the FEAR.  Finally I decided to stave it off, and draw Greg, the metal artist, my vendor neighbor at the Farmer’s Market.  See Greg and my very first market pencil portrait below. 

I would love to close with Fear is only a delusion, but instead I’ll go with the Flow is being in the moment.  Derring – do next week if the weather agrees, I’ll be at the Farmer’s Market, aplomb and in the moment, as a dilettante pencil-pushing artist of portraiture (with a special thank-you to Greg and Valerie Asher of ASHER DESIGN LANDSCAPING).

To bastardize Robert Service …

There are strange things done under the mid-day sun, 
By the buskers who moil for gold …