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Where does the art come from?

The one thing that always tickles me everytime I go to a signing is how many people ask me the following question, "Where did your artistic side come from?"

The short answer is, "My family."

And, in truth, it's part of the long answer as well.  My family is full of artists.  Even the ones who don't appear to have an artistic bone in their body is, in their own way, an artist.  However, the love of reading (and writing) came from my Nanny (Viola Minard), who was my mother's mom... so my grandmother on the Minard side.  Writing, and typing, came from my great-grandmother on my Dad's side (Dad's mom's mom, Marjorie Morrison).

Nanny loved books--more so than me (and that's not an easy task, believe me) and I always remember floor to ceiling bookshelves crammed full of books always dominating her apartment.  Her present to me on every birthday and Christmas was either a new book, or--later--gift cards and certificates from Coles, Smithbooks and Allison the Bookman (an independent bookstore in North Bay, Ontario)... and the shelves to put said books I'd collect.  You could say the book obsession started with her.

Gramma Morrison, however, taught me to put words to paper long before I had a computer.  She brought me my first typewriter, and her daughter (my Gramma Cannon - my Dad's mom) introduced me to Murder She Wrote which introduced me to a character that wrote for a living.

It's funny that a network of grandmothers is what brought me to reading, and then writing.

However, they're not the only ones who did.

I said that art runs in my family.  That's no lie and no exaggeration.

My grandfather (Dad's father) had always wanted to be an architect (before that he wanted to be RCMP, but was told he was too short... but I digress... although, eventually he did become both a volunteer firefighter, and chief, as well as an auxiliary OPP... yes, there is a reason for the policing to feature prominently in my writing!) but ended up, through necessity, in the electrical trade, and then into the IBEW as a unionized industrial and mining electrical foreman.  However, he had this gift with wood... he could carve and whittle things into wood like he spoke to it.  He could make furniture that wasn't just practical but was also art.  My better shelves came from him and not only was the oak solid, but carved with little animals and trees... stained and then varnished to bring out the natural burl and the carving.

My oldest Uncle, Don, inherited some of this but is also more of a tinker... an artist who can make machines and computers do things that they'd normally not do.

My Uncle Steve, who became an electrician like Grampa was (and in the same union), has a talent for working with cameras.  Photography, and videography.  He makes things come alive in the lens.

My Dad, of course, is the most obvious.  He paints, he whittles (actually, all of Doug's sons do).

Grampa also married an artist as my grandmother paints (and her mother - the one who bought me the typewriter - also painted) and weaves yarn and thread into patterns without always requiring a pattern.

With all this artistic talent in my family - tempered by the technical background found within the trades - it should be no surprise that I ended up doing something that was equally steeped in the arts, as well as demanding in techical requirements (ie: Grammar, sentence structure, and other rules of good writing... the art comes in knowing when and where to bend, or even break, those rules).  I also try to paint but what I end up doing looks rather... abstract.  I'm being generous here.  Painting is not my thing, but I like to play with colour.

Maybe I might paint something that looks like something... but then again, I might even learn to play piano (which Gramma Morrison also could do, and my cousin does very well).


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