Same Same, but Different

Rafe and Alexa show off their paintings

Having recently returned from SE Asia where the term “Same Same But Different” is a common in Thailand as “eh “is in Canada, I found this the perfect name for this set of 4 paintings for Andy and Fiona. The reason being is that I already did a set of 4 for them back in 2005. However, sometimes people’s symbols change. That was partially the reason for the repaint. The other was Andy and Fiona moved. Again (this being the 7th house they’ve lived in in the 9 years I’ve known them). Thus, colours and styles have changed.

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San Fancisco Koi

San Fran KoiThis was painted to celebrate Shannon’s and Edmond’s 40th birthdays (just a month apart) and also to enliven their incredible new condo which resides just a block from Giant’s Stadium in San Francisco, California. Unfortunately, their 40th birthdays were actually in 2006… so I was about 10 months late in getting this painting to them. Luckily, I had to opportunity to hand deliver it to them finally this past June.

Their condo is decked out in simple yet modern tones of red, blacks and greys, a beautiful pallet that brings a engaged vibrancy to artwork of any colour that adorns the walls, but especially red. So I really wanted to paint them something simple, but engaging enough to pop off their walls with colour and contrast.

The Koi Fish is such a poignant and rich symbol, I feel it is a must for every household! The symbol of the fish transcends all folklore, religion, culture and corners of the earth. It is an auspicious symbol, and a double fish represents both happiness, good luck, and a harmonious marriage. A perfect combination for Shannon and Edmond’s vibrant apartment and vibrant life together!

Fish from a Tree

At 2 months old, Alexa Warren now officially becomes my youngest client. This painting is an addition to the set of three I did for Andy, Fiona and Rafe last Christmas. Now that they have a new addition to their family, of course, a new painting was required.

Alexa is quite the old soul. You can tell by the way she makes constant eye contact with you. “Looking at me for ghosts” I call it as we have deep conversations between our own gazes. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have polarizing sides of her personality already evident. She is an absolute Zen Being one minute, and the next a tormented screeching screaming demanding ball of twisted fury. Then she snaps right back to waxing the world non-dual… or as much as she can see of it from beyond the bars in her crib.

I don’t remember exactly when I decided to paint the Koi fish for her. It just sorta showed up one day. I sketched it out this past summer, but didn’t start painting it until a few weeks ago. I’d painted a set of Koi Fish earlier this year, but I wanted something with more of an African fusion to it (and yes, I am well aware there are no Koi Fish in Africa…but I can’t argue with the Muse. These things just show up, and I’ve learned not to question their origins). Anyway, I wanted something more angled, as if it were carved from a tree… or born of a tree…because technically, it was. In the set of paintings they already have, Andy is a tree, so I took the liberty of focusing on Alexa’s connection to her father.

As with Alexa’s older brother Rafe, I have broken protocol and made an exact twin of her painting. I took the twin of Rafe’s elephant to India and left it with the orphanage I volunteered at in February 2006. I will be taking the twin of Alexa’s painting with me on my upcoming trip to Africa (Ghana) in February 2007, to present to another orphanage where I will be spending the month volunteering.

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Challenging Brilliance

Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided
The future pre-decided
Detached and subdivided
In the mass production zone
Nowhere is the dreamer
Or the misfit so alone


This was donated to the silent auction for the Foothills Academy in Calgary on October 28, 2006 at the Calgary Convention Centre. Foothills Academy is a school that helps children with learning challenges succeed in a positive and nurturing environment designed to specifically address their learning strengths and weaknesses.

What better symbol to encapsulate the amazing work this school does, and the “Misunderstood Brilliance” of the children that attend it than the Koi Fish. The Japanese generally associate the Koi fish with determination and strength of purpose. According to Japanese folklore, if a Koi fish successfully accomplished the insurmountable feat of climbing the waterfalls at a place called Dragon Gate on the Yellow River, the fish would magically be transformed into a dragon. Based on that ancient wisdom, the Koi Fish became a legendary symbol for perseverance and adversity, ambition and achievement. Because of the Koi fish’s strength and fortitude to overcome obstacles, it stands for bravery and victory against physical, societal and emotional barriers that try to hold it back.

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This was just an experiment. I had a space in my kitchen that needed something on it. So I sat down without any sketch or idea in mind and just started painting… and this is what turned out.

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Spirited Beings – Maui

This painting signifies all the impenetrable characteristics shared between the symbol of the fish and the hanging’s recipient. The symbol of the fish transcends all folklore, religion, culture and corners of the earth. It has long represented Knowledge, Instinct, Persistence, Determination, Foresight, Wisdom, Inspiration, Rejuvenation, Prosperity, Fortune, and the Flow of Life From the Earth. A salmon journeys to its ultimate goal against all obstacles. The fish is all great teachers in one.

In many cultures, a fish is used to compliment one with unusual ability, and a pair of fish (such as in this wall hanging) symbolizes marriage and conjugal harmony.

This painting went to Richard (Dick) Donner and his wife Lauren, and was seasoned with all the colours and style and heart of Maui in mind.

I first had the pleasure of meeting Dick briefly in New York in February 2005. I then had the absolute privilege of spending a few days with him on the set of the Bruce Willis / Mos Def / David Morse movie 16 Blocks in Toronto in June.

Anyone who has spent anytime with Dick, however small, can attest to the fact he is a pretty inspiring individual. From the first millisecond I met him I knew he was a rare gem. Aside from being a legendary Hollywood director and producer (for those of you who just watch the movies and don’t read the credits, he directed The Omen, Superman, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon I, II, III and IV, Maverick, Conspiracy Theory, and my personal favourite, Scrooged, just to name a few), he has an easy going non-pretentious nature that he necessitates not only from himself, but those around him. But more than that, there is this aura of absolute enthusiasm that literally seems to radiate from him in all directions as he runs circles around people half his age. Calming but enormously strong and effervescent, the energy he emits is suffused with incomparable brilliance and kindness. It is an energy that runs rampant with a passion for his career, his friends and family, and his superabundance of life.

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It’s a good life if you don’t weaken – New Zealand

This one I had the privilege of personally delivering to Christchurch, New Zealand. I wanted to capture essence, strength and perseverance in this hanging.

Although this one is untitled, the essence of this photo comes from the Tragically Hip lyric, “Face so full of meaning as to almost make it glow.”

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This was the 4th hanging I did (originally for Andy and Fiona until that whole couch fiasco – see 2 Tigers for details). Fiona challenged me to show more of my own essence through this one.

Top Row, Left to right:

The bear claw print is used by native cultures as an omen of good luck.

The second square has to do with an otherworldly encounter I had feeding sparrows with a stranger in Paris in November 2000. I was traveling with one of the best companions that ever accompanied me on a trip, Timothy Findley’s book Pilgrim. Art completely imitated life as happenings in the story began to be the happenings around me. Sentences like, “We are not free to choose what attracts our attention. It chooses us. This way, I have been chosen by you” and “Divide the human population in two, Pilgrim would write of another encounter, and there you have them, the millions who never connect” jumped right out of the page and shadowed me wherever I went. Amazingly enough, I got to meet Timothy Findley a few months before he died. I brought my raggedy country swept copy of Pilgrim hoping he would sign it for me. I told him of my encounter and how it mimicked what happened in the book. He was thrilled and told me the story of how that particular passage came to be (as he wrote most of Pilgrim at his estate in France), and signed my book, “For Marjorie, with mutual memories of the Sparrows of Paris! Be well.” Indeed, “For the sake of having a memento of our encounter.” Touché Mr. Findley, how I miss your voice! The picture is really an embodiment of the stranger (Annie Dillard writes, “As a stranger is the friend of another stranger on account of their strangeness on earth.”) Touché again!

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