My grandma


grandma 1 copy


This is my lovely 94 year old grandma, Joyce (my middle namesake) drawn in ballpoint pen, with a splash of some watercolour, on 9 x 12 in paper. This was a piece with a lot of stops and starts, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to get it right.

I don’t draw in this much detail often, but I am so in admiration of this woman’s energy and wit, as well as her capacity to continually learn and grow in her most recent years, I wanted to do her justice.

My grandma was a source not only of my earliest feelings of family and comfort, but of my ideas of femininity and beauty. She has always taken pride in her appearance, and it has always shown. My mom told me that when she was little she thought her mom was the most beautiful woman in the world, and I believe it.

It was important to me to reframe my grandma’s own self-consciousness around the act of ageing. Like many women from her generation (and today), she believes that youth is the ideal, and that getting older is a departure from that ideal. While on one hand, I remember her morning beauty routine and makeup instruction with warm and fuzzy nostalgia from sleepovers at my grandparents’, I know that her commitment to those products was a necessary protection from the critical external and internal voices of ageist judgement.

I wanted to pay attention to and honour how the imprints of her life experiences have informed her skin. As my face begins to get its own creases and lines, I’m trying to appreciate (despite a lifetime of training) that this is the story of my interactions with the world for the past 31 years. They represent all my smiles, all my belly laughs, all my scowls at people who deserved it, and all my serious eyebrow furrowing thoughts. They are a record of my story, and there is no reason they should be erased in favour of the simpler texture of a younger, less experienced and less wise, version of myself.

Lately I have been getting angry when I am seeking health care and I am instead targeted with anti-ageing products and procedures. It starts with the pharmacy section in the Safeway where there are a million wrinkle reducing skin care products but you can’t find the yeast infection treatment (ew vaginas, gross), and it seeps into the places where I am at my most vulnerable and exposed.  In my OB-GYN’s office, and in a general walk-in clnic I went to recently, there were ads for cosmetic surgery in the waiting room and in the actual doctor’s offices.

I resented so much that while I was dealing with issues that affected my actual health and well-being, when I was feeling low and like there was something wrong with me anyways, and in a moment when I was asking for help from an authority I was supposed to be able to trust, I was being marketed to and confronted with the fact that not only is there a problem with how I feel or operate, but I live in a society that also thinks I don’t  look how I’m supposed to look because my face has lines.

I reject the idea that women should feel shame or embarrassment for showing evidence that we have spent time on this earth. I’d like to celebrate all the life stages women experience, not just the perpetual childhood we are sold as necessary for continued social relevance. Humans get old (if we’re lucky). Women get old. There is not actually an alternative. Selling women discontent for being subject to the laws of time and space is a huge industry, and I’m specifically pissed off at the individuals who profit from inventing our insecurities for us.

I have a feeling that women who are not afraid to express the experience they’ve amassed over the years may be the most dangerous . . .

What if all women did not feel they needed to hide or fix themselves in order to occupy public space? What would we resist if we were not resisting time’s conversation with our own bodies?

Hmm . . .

I can think of some things.


Inktober is a challenge to artists to create an ink drawing every day for the entire month of October. So, I didn’t exactly do that, but it was a great excuse to challenge myself to make some off the cuff artwork that didn’t require too much thought or time (more than a day). Here’s what I came up with.



Why draw the ASL alphabet? The connection to Deafblindness and disability


For the past seven years, I have worked as an Intervenor in mainstream schools. This means that I have supported students who are Deafblind in a one to one position.  When people who work outside of the world of education, and specifically, disability, hear this they are often curious. How do you communicate?  Usually, a Deafblind person does not have complete vision or hearing loss, but a combination of a degree of both.  This creates a disability that is unique amongst other types of sensory loss, but also unique to each individual, meaning that communication needs are also unique from person to person.

Deafblindness is an “information gathering disorder,” meaning that the Deafblind person does not have access to the information that allows them to make sense of the world.  So, to communicate this person needs as many opportunities to access information as possible – through voice, object and tactile cues, touch, visual cues (symbols and photos) and sign language.   This is called a ‘total communication system.’  Sign language can be presented for the Deafblind person to see if they have adequate vision (often the signer must be close and in a preferred field of vision) or can be used in pro-tactile or ‘hand under hand’ sign.  This is when sign language is signed onto a person’s hands, with the “speaking hands” on top, and the “listening hands” held open underneath.  The ultimate goal when working with a Deafblind person who does not have expressive language is always that they will become an expressive communicator.

The students who I have worked with have had complex needs in addition to their Deafblindness.  I have worked with three students, and each has had physical disabilities, cognitive disabilities and medical issues that have additionally informed the way that they learn.  In a school context, relationships with peers, sense of place and belonging in the school community, and learning goals are always central themes.  For classmates who want to connect with these students who obviously learn and communicate differently, sign language has been a kind of meeting place.  Typically abled peers can learn sign language as a way to connect with these Deafblind students.  In contrast to Deaf culture, where exclusively signing spaces are the norm, for Deafblind students in mainstream schools a signing environment must be created.  This is also true of any non-speaking student who could benefit from sign language as a way to communicate.

Part of the reason I was inspired to focus on the American Sign Language alphabet in my artwork was because I wanted to show that communication is of primary importance, and assert that it is actually a right. In mainstream schools there is still a danger that students who don’t communicate typically will drift through their schooling without learning meaningful alternative ways of letting those around them know their needs, wants and life narratives. Amidst concerns of medicalization, convenience (it is often  easiest to anticipate the needs and desires of the student and automatically fulfill them) and appearing “normal” (and doing tasks that are not meaningful or goal fulfilling for the student, but are the same as their peers)  it was crucial to me that the students I worked with were always seen foremost as communicators.

asl alphabet poster

Communication is necessary for individuals to assert their personality, needs, wants, and individuality, and to feel a true sense of connection to others; to feel fully known and understood.  Often one’s personhood is assessed by others, though probably not intentionally or consciously, based on that person’s ability to communicate with formal language.  In a context where caregivers and educators might take for granted that disability corresponds to child-like passivity and co-operation, communication is essential for agency, individuality, and self-determination.

People with disabilities and their allies have been advocating for their rights to these human needs for a long time, and people with disabilities continue to fight to be treated as equal citizens of our country.  Institutionalization as a default practice for housing people with intellectual disabilities is very recent, continuing to this day despite the fact that it goes against Article 19 of the UN Convention of Rights for Persons with Disabilities*, which Canada ratified in 2010. The absence of communication, or voicelessness, perpetuates the belief that people with disabilities should have their decisions made for them, and settle for what they get.

So enabling a form of voice has been a huge theme while I’ve supported students. Matching vocabulary to the day to day life and readiness of the student, I have learned some ASL vocabulary and have been practising signed English with students.  Signed English is distinct from ASL because it lacks the grammar and syntax of ASL, and instead matches the signs to spoken English.

I am not fluent in sign language, and I am not part of Deaf Culture. So I have asked myself the question (and been asked), is it really my place to make and share this artwork? Will I appear to be taking a position of authority over a language that is not even my own? This year I have taken two beginner ASL courses which also teach students about cultural issues around Deafness.  Appropriation in the name of sharing and celebration comes up.  The topic of taking away opportunities from Deaf artists comes up.  Both are not okay. The more I learned about the complexity and sensitivity surrounding ASL, the more I had to ask myself- what am I trying to accomplish?

As I move away from Intervention, and go forward to support students with other types of needs, I am contemplating what this past seven years has taught me.  Within the small Intervenor community I have been part of, the phrase “Intervention is 50% PR” (public relations) comes up a lot.  When we face challenges around defining learning goals in a team environment, finding a place socially for our students, creating physical space for often bulky communication and calendar systems in already crowded classrooms, and making sure our prep time is spent creating the resources our students need, we practise the delicate art of PR.

With the ASL drawings, I guess I am in part falling into this practised role of intermediary. I want to draw the hearing and typically abled community in to engage with a language they may not have contemplated before, to see that it is worth spending time with, to see that it is worthy of recognition and respect. I want ASL to enter the mainstream, so that any learner who does not speak can have access to natural, embodied expression in a community that can understand and know them.  I know that pen and paper are not capable of accomplishing all of that, but they served me well in giving my own voice to this wish.

To address the concern of ASL and Deaf artists, I do not want to claim any space that could be filled by Deaf people.  My drawings are a contemplation, honouring and sharing, a visual place for my thoughts and feelings about what I’ve just written about, but they are not an authority and are not intended to perpetuate systems of the disempowerment of Deaf people.  I recognize that Deafness is not disability, though I imagine there are shared experiences between people with both identities.  I recognize that Deaf people are capable of speaking for themselves, and do not need me to speak on their behalf.

I also feel that sign language is needed in places it is not yet being used, for various reasons such as lack of community based  and accessible training (versus four-year programs through formal educational institutes), a belief that technology can serve the same purposes, and that sign language isn’t common enough to be a life long practical communication tool.  Now that ASL may become a third official language in Canada, perhaps we are seeing a change? Maybe teaching sign language to those who need it will be properly funded and organized in the near future.  But until then, we need to do our best to make sure everyone who does not yet communicate has access to the means to do so.

I encourage you, dear Reader, to learn about Deaf culture and history, as well as the history of disability, and to explore the visual art, theatre and writing of both groups.  I have included a couple of links below to get you started.  I invite you to learn with me, how we can better communicate with everyone in our community.


Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf – artist directory

Christine Sun Kim- TED interview and videos – explores the concept of sound through visual art

Ken Glickman- comedian

RIT National Technical Institute for the Deaf–  artist directory

Zoée Nuage– Vancouver visual artist and Queer ASL founder and instructor

update: The artwork from this project will be used as educational resources and fundraising purposes by the Canadian Deafblind Association, and the BC Provincial Outreach Program for Students with Deafblindness. 

*Article 19- Living independently and being included in the community
States Parties to the present Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community, including by ensuring that: (a) Persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement; – 14 – (b) Persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community; (c) Community services and facilities for the general population are available on an equal basis to persons with disabilities and are responsive to 

Happy Holidays!!

Great merriness to you and everyone you love! I made two cards this year, one of which people seem to take personally. . . but I feel like the holiday season brings out the stuffed seal (as in full of oreos) in all of us. Plus, of course, a lemur.

ASL poster

Phew! Can you believe it? Finished the whole alphabet! Right in time to attend a real sign language course and learn there are some variations.  Mostly, it is that the hand is placed in front of one’s chest and the fingers extend towards the other person, so in letters like “C” and “D” the illustrated view would be the side view.  However, I still think this is a cool poster for illustrating how the asl alphabet relates to our written alphabet.

asl alphabet poster

One page zine

As part of my bookmaking class we made one page zines, which are great because they’re super simple, you just cut once in the middle.  If you ever feel like making one you can collage, draw, and reproduce with a photocopier.  I made this one thinking about different ways of communicating and connecting.  The hand shapes spell ‘friend’ in American Sign Language.  It’s free for you to print and fold yourself!


Monkey Town

cd cover art for Man Your Horse

This is the artwork I made for Vancouver band, Man Your Horse‘s new release “Marrel Of Bonkeys.”  Below are some other options that didn’t quite make the cut.  I was super into splatters and crazy colour combinations throughout this process.

A couple more

So I’ve gone on a little hiatus after going back to work, but have finally gotten on the ball and started scanning again.  These pieces are from my summer project, which is untitled right now, but has something to do with the dualities inside of us.  More to come soon.

Inside Opposite

This is a set of illustrations I’ve been working on over the summer (with watercolors and a Micron 005 pen), though I’m not quite finished yet.  The focus of these drawings/ paintings is on the capacity we all have to contain multiple, often contradictory and opposing selves.  I think that these lights and shadows within us compete and relate to one another to compose who we are.  Partly, I’ve been inspired by Jung’s ideas about archetypes, and the idea that we all have in common certain symbols, fears and desires.

through a scanner darkly

I just got a new scanner, which only cost me $30 on craigslist, but I’m super excited because it actually seems to be scanning the lighter parts of watercolour pieces that were getting blown out before. Here are the first two pieces I’ve scanned in so far (the first is for a project I’ve been working on over the summer, the second is for an upcoming issue of the Capilano Courier):