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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion

Great news!

I have been invited to exhibit in China from April 28th to July 10th, 2013. I must work like crazy to raise the funds and welcome the support of an event planner that’s up for the task.

I was reminded of my accomplishments when I shared the news of my invitation with some new pals. We looked through each other’s old photos to get to know each other.

I put a photo album up on Facebook called, Shameless Self-Promotion filled with images of awards I received and projects I have worked on in the past. It was so well-received that I decided to post this blog.

In Kindergarten, I was the happiest during art class. Give me a bunch of scraps and I’ll make you something priceless. Thank goodness for art class and art teachers.

Now, although my parents were the strictest parents God ever created, they allowed me one type of freedom I loved. They bought me fabric so that I could make myself the most unique church gowns ever created for Easter and Christmas Mass. I can’t believe I’m sharing these with the world. Look out Armani!

From Kindergarten scraps in art class to these!
See some highlights below.

In the photo on the far right, I am sporting lovely beads. Yes, I did have beads on my braids. Knock your heart out Bo Derek!
They called me ‘Wind Chimes’,
those glorious folks from high school…
and still, I persevered.

In 1987, I received the Creative Writing award in high school. When I posted this on Facebook, my pal O, a Catholic schoolteacher commented,  ‘It’s nice to see a kilt worn at the proper length.’ I know all about the fantasies, gents. I don’t want to hear it.

In 1988, I was the first black person in my high school to be elected to Student Associated Council (SAC) Vice President. Way to go, Sister. Well, I felt it. Mostly from the Principal and the advisory staff, who gently reminded me of my place which sadly, was not to change the world, but to wear my uniform and to accept things as they were.

They made a special rule the year I decided to run for (SAC) that you had to be on Council for a year before you could be elected as President, so I had to settle for Vice-President. I was taken aside several times and spoken to regarding race in relation to my position on things. No, no, I lied. That decision had nothing to do with racial injustice at all. In a highschool of about 1600 students, less than 20 were black.

Maybe my pal H was right. He told me to be careful not to get shot off the balcony. But I persevered and implemented a couple of programs that stuck. One I was most proud of stopped students from breaking into the school dances by giving them the opportunity to set up the gym before a dance in exchange for free entrance.

The wealthy students on the Council could not understand that some families simply did not have five dollars to spare per child for a dance. Instead of explaining, I talked about crime reduction. The program went through. I hope that it still exists at St. Martin’s High School in Mississauga. The set-up program succeeded and the break-in’s stopped.

Despite that win, I thought that perhaps a person could do more to effect change by staying out of political positions and instead, reminding politicians of the change that was important during their time in office. Once I got in, I realized how many rules and regulations inhibited the progress that once seemed possible. I was gently reminded whenever I saw more. And eventually I gave up trying.

Today, my perspective may have shifted. Let’s just say, I wouldn’t turn down the position of Governor General if offered. I hear they get a pretty good pension.
(Make sure the job you get has benefits, people. You want to retire well.)

I’m the one in the crazy glasses on the bottom right, instilling change.

I made a couple of grad dresses in grade 13. Remember grade 13?? It’s now called OAC. I sold some tee shirts and jewelry and things at a flea market in the burbs when I was about 18 years old. That exposure lead to this fabulous job. A pal in high school hired me to paint these shirts for her co-workers.

I planned to study Interior Design upon graduation from high school, but my younger brother suggested that Fashion Design might be a better fit because I seemed to enjoy making clothes. For years, I regretted the choosing Ryerson School of Fashion over Interior Design. And if I had known how sexist the world is, I would have chosen architecture, law, medicine, economics or engineering. I achieved better marks in Math and Science than I did in the arts.

Here’s why I chose design. One day, my mother came home from another infuriating day at the post office. She was a Manager there, which means she supervised the supervisors. She turned to me and said, “Make sure you choose a job you enjoy, because there will be days when you will wish you had. Don’t end up like me.” She made lots of money and fought hard everyday. I miss you Mom and yes, I’m still listening.

I thought fashion design would be fun, so I pursued it. I graduated from Ryerson University, School of Fashion with a B-ish average in 1993. Might have been due to my patented practice of writing essays in cafés and bars with a Black Russian close by. Don’t attempt this! It makes it really difficult to get into a Master’s Program years later. I found that out the hard way and when I had to opt for College instead.

Here are some images from a photo shoot a co worker was kind enough help me with. These are clothes I designed, pattern-drafted and constructed while at Ryerson. One day I plan to produce a book called EGO of all the images that people have taken of me.

Make friends with photographer’s folks.

A musician pal o mine, commissioned me to paint a guitar he crafted 
from wood. Here’s an image of my main man Andrew, holding the 
painted product. Later he added strings and things to make it work.
In the 90’s, I would take any random job that had anything to do with art or painting as long as I didn’t break
any laws doing it. 
I always declared my income and always
will because I plan to always be
on the government’s good side.

I said, “Make friends with photographers.”
If you’re lucky, like I am, they will 
make friends with you.

Alex commissioned me to produce a painting of Grace Jones for the late, great Geohn Drewitt. I know he watches over me… and a lot of us… from heaven. Thanks, Geohn.

Truthfully, I have had many near-death experiences, but my favourite one was when I painted this 8 by 10 foot oil painting of Grace Jones in a tiny room above the Cameron House with the door closed. When I went home I had bed spins. It’s a wonder I survived.

A pal of mine who thought I was a beauty, asked me to model for her collection, Sim and Jones. Here’s a photo of me in an alley on College in the 90’s modeling one of her suits. I should have kept that jacket. I loved that blazer.

Together the ladies and Sim and Jones, an ex-boyfriend who shall remain nameless, and I put together a fashion show fundraiser for the benefit of the Single Parent’s Association at the University of Toronto.

I can’t find the photo now, but la piece de la resistance, was when my paintings, carried by models walked down the runway to this track:
Ayinde's Speech - Ayinde Jean-Baptiste

It is inspiring and wonderful. 
Stevie Wonder also does an amazing version 
of Redemption Song on this album.
You can find it on Amazon when you click here. 

You’ll recognize the black dress on the right as the one I was wearing in the triptych above. I created the one of a kind piece on the left. I painted a number of pieces of silk by hand and then stitched them together to create that gorgeous empire wasted gown. In those days I had dreams of selling garments for a million dollars each. I might revisit that. My pal who works at Barney’s talked me out of it. She said there was a lot of marketing and promotion, which lead to prices that high – that most designers who sold at that level had a few fragrances out and a track record of excellence. She didn’t say, but I’m sure she thought, it was elitist and simply ‘wrong’.

Still, I might revisit that. One dress or so a year at a million dollars.
Might be a nice life.

The Four Hour Work Week
Buy it on Amazon

I have yet to read this book. But it comes highly recommended.

I met a man at a zine festival who was ‘unusual’. He was bent and determined to make me his, even after having met my stunning, talented, gorgeous ‘boyfriend at the time.’ I was selling photocopies of images like these made from scratch board and ink. He was selling poetry. You can order a print of my illustrated comics like the one below from You can also put ten images up on the site for free. Best to pay the piper, though.


A few times, I put installations in store windows like Pages. Boy do I miss that place. It was the best bookstore in town. I used to go in there and read my horoscope from every fashion and lifestyle magazine they had. It was wonderful. I rarely bought a magazine, but I bought a lot of books.

The owner supported local artists by providing them the opportunity to install work in his store window. We received a discount card for our efforts. He closed the store. As I heard on the radio, the rent went up to some unaffordable sum. I think he was ready to retire. Maybe he will become an MP. We joked one day about the pension.

The client from the zine festival commissioned me to paint his car and then was afraid to drive it because he feared he stood out too much in traffic. 

It’s a therapy moment. Last I heard, he moved to Vancouver.

I painted this in underground parking in the Annex 
in the dead of winter. I was freezing cold and had 
to do it in stages. Sadly, I don’t have a photo 
of the completed car. If you see the car in BC, take 
a photo and send it to me, please.

Here’s where the government of Canada saved me from myself. After leaving an HR position at Ticketmaster in a huff. I sued. I won. I was eligible for the Self Employment Assistance Program. Below is an image of me at the program-end tradeshow held at the YMCA. They interviewed me speaking about women in business. I said that we, women, were resilient by nature which made us perfectly suited for the rise and falls one encounters in business. If anyone has a copy of the interview, I’d love to see it.

I received a small allowance from that program, which carried me through while I set up Soul Designs. I made and sold applied art products with a concentration on using recycled, reclaimed and environmentally friendly products until I realized that it was probably a better idea that my art survived the elements. This Coffee Coloured Soul painting called ‘Fighting’, was rendered in coffee that I would have thrown down the sink.

I used to stop painting until I could afford acrylic paint on canvas. Then one day, I visited my pal R, and saw that she had painted a gorgeous image on cardboard. I realized that I if I could be creative as well as rich, I would go father. I bought a book on natural dyes from Pages, and off I went mixing up potions and storing them in the fridge. I even tried to paint with grass from the lawn. Grass stains are hard to get rid of, right. It came out yellow. Not a success. But the coffee stain worked.

But I still need a sponsor. Would someone like to be my benefactor so that my creativity is not limited by the art supplies that I can afford?


There isn’t much space in Luna anymore for art exhibitions, but it the art on those walls used to be fabulous. I was asked to exhibit at Luna after being featured on Roger’s cable. 

Click on Luna for a review on Yelp.

I taught art classes out of my studio for a few years. I would advertise art classes while I sold jewelry, bags, hats… lots of things. 

I also knitted the scarf I’m wearing. The yarn is from my favourite yarn dealer, Romni Wools at Queen and Tecumseth.

Make sure you check out the basement where the best deals are!

The hat in the photo was made from the scraps of a silk screening job gone wrong. I was hired by a pal at work to silk-screen tee shirts for his band. Now, get this! The ink I bought washed out when the shirts were washed, so I had to do the entire job again for free. I got on the phone to the fabulous people at Speedball who refunded the cost of the tee shirts, but I lost the revenue for my time.

I cut the ruined tee shirts into scraps and made hats, bags and a blanket. The unbleached cotton was purchased from Eco Fibre. A company that rescued cotton that was deemed ‘usuable’ from land fill sites and wove it into unbleached fabric. They were based in Vancouver. I’m not sure if they are still around.

I used to sell notebooks as well. 

I bought the books on Spadina, upon the advice of my pal A, from Sim and Jones. I made the covers at home via block printing with coffee dye.

One day I was mortified to learn that I accidentally left my journal in the café amongst the ones for sale. One of the waiters put it aside an assured me that no one had read it. As if?? My ‘boyfriend at the time’ worked in the bar next door. Sometimes messy handwriting is a good thing.

A woman I met at the Transac Club, where I used to sell, asked me if I would teach her son. INSERT LINK TO MAP. He was a student of the ACE Program. I interviewed and then landed the position. The ACE program is set up for high school students who had been kicked out of every school in the GTA. They all had criminal records. Even with one adult per student, it was still difficult to maintain an orderly class. I connected with the students through music. Hip Hop in every class played as we drew and sketched. I hope and trust that those students are all doing well and are living within the realm of the law. Remember what I taught you. Think up, people. Think up!

That year I was featured in a spot about artists that aired on Roger’s television. Here is a shot of me being interviewed on Roger’s cable. I wouldn’t mind another fifteen minutes of fame. Hello, journalists. I’m available for interviews.

Here’s why you should always take a photo of your work immediately after it’s completed. I told my favourite student/employee, (I know. I know you’re not supposed to have favourites. You always asked me and I and I refused to answer. It was you, D. I hope you become an architect as promised. At any age! People go back to school at 65, pal. Study hard. Maybe take some courses part-time. If it gets too tough, get a tutor. I did at GBC.) 

I told my favourite student/employee, that under no circumstances should he put ‘BTP’ on the wall that we were hired to paint within the realm of the Grafitti Removal Project, later called the Beautification Project. (The youth named the housing project he lived in, ‘Boultbee Town Projects’.) I left it up to the youth to complete the mural. I was on to the next gig and knew they’d do an amazing job without me.

Years later, my photographer friend and I took a walk up Jones just South of Danforth to see the mural and to photograph it. You can tell by my body language that I was devastated to see not only the tag, but that the blue touch up paint was rather unsuccessful.

I’ve almost recovered as is shown in photograph number two.

Soul Designs was all about fixing the world and healing the spirit.

Yes, the business was registered. As I said, those in ‘office’ and I are old friends. The mission statement was to create art and applied arts projects to heal the soul of the world.

Here is a shot of my first studio on Cecil Street on Spadina. I shared it with two other artists. When one of the artists decided to live in the building to absorb the rent of the occupant he had a conflict with, I left. It went from being a workspace to something else. I was no longer interested in sharing under those circumstances.

I moved the studio to Adelaide and then to Liberty Village where I painted all sorts of things like these frizbees below.

After Mel Lastman’s commented to a journalist while at the airport that ‘he was afraid of being eaten by Africans,’ which lost Toronto the Olympics. I installed some works in the windows of A Space Gallery at 401 RichmondStreet West. 

A Mecca of design studios, galleries and not for profit organizations. 
Anyone interested in becoming an artist should take a walk through there often.

The exhibition was called, ‘Mel is the Last Man I Would Ever Want To Eat’.
Now, I’m not positive, but often wonder if that might be the reason I never get grants from the Toronto Arts Council. He contributes funds to the organization.

This is what I mean by doing more by not running for office. Had I been in office, I would never have been able to illustrate Mel Lastman in this light. And I’m not certain I would survive the backlash of calling him out. But I could no longer accept the overtly racist comments that were being made by politicians in office. I was surprised that no one had organized a protest.

Shortly after that installation, I started to receive strange phone calls 
and noticed vehicles parked outside my building. I got scared and 
ran to the burbs to hide for a few years – to keep safe. I knew 
Hazel MacCallion would have my back.

I became an ACTRA member in the late 90s and can be seen in the background of many films and tv shows. My friends from NYC would call and report. ‘We saw you running down the stairs in the film Universal Soldier. You were the only black woman in a country bar. That was you, right?’

I have yet to be cast in anything I can shamelessly self promote. The closest I get to stardom on stage is this. A pal of mine, W, who worked at IMAX invited me out as his plus one for the viewing of an IMAX film that he formatted. Along with his co-workers, we visited the Fez Batik on Richmond Street West, which is now a homeless shelter or half way house. Not certain.

That night, they were having a lip sync competition. I had no interest in participating, but the IMAX staff was so excited. They chose their songs. They laughed about it. They urged me to participate. I declined. They pushed. I accepted. I chose my song. We drank. Fun times.

When the moment came to perform, they all bailed. But I held firm and I got up there and mouthed the words to ‘I Will Survive’  

like a diva who had just freed herself from the shackles of an institution.

It is the only time in my life that I have ever won first place and that was the semi-finals.

This image was taken by Tamara Zeta Sonowar Makhan. 

The photo is of the final performance. I came in second, but had the time of my life. I laughed. I cried. I received free tickets to see The Stones at Downsview Park, but I don’t like crowds so much, and was hustled out of those tickets. I also received a Molson’s jacket, which I think my cousin has now.

So, that’s a bit about my path through the arts. A walk on the sunnier side.

Carrying the name, Soul Designs attracted some ‘colourful’ clients and became an immense challenge to live up to ­–

all the issues,
all the politics,
product awareness,
moon cycles,
had to keep up on my reading,
had to know what was going on in the world,
the universe,
colour theory,
and then pets,
what about the animals,
the economy,
staying true to myself,
and the ooh la la of it all
that I eventually changed the company name to

Simone Frank.


Good things are coming.

Now, Listen, OSAP found me, so I have to pay off the small loan I incurred during the process of achieving a Dean’s List Diploma from George Brown, School of Design in Advertising. 

(My GPA went up because I switched from Black Russians to matcha. Do it. You’ll go father in life.)

Then it all went sour, but it’s swinging back up.

Great news!
I have been invited to exhibit in China from April 28th to July 10th, 2013. I must work like crazy to raise the funds and welcome the support of an event planner that’s up for the task. For now, I have to do this one myself.

So if you’d like

To buy a painting,
your card painted,
a print of my work,
your flyer designed,
your grad dress made,
a mural on the wall in your baby’s room,
a mural on the wall of your business or school,
a wedding dress,
your pants shortened,
your leather jacket painted,
a men’s boustier,
a portrait of your child,
your guitar painted,
your walls painted,
your studio walls fabricated into an unforgettable design…
let me know.

I have less than a month to raise $20,000.

I may, as I said, revisit the million-dollar gown… but for now, prices are still reasonable.

Give me a shout or a text.

No foolishness now.
Serious gigs only.
And no stalkers.

I don’t suffer fools easily, as my pal often tells me.
And I know how to dance Hip Hop.
(Inside story. More later.)

Gmail acts up sometimes.
If you think you’re being ignored, push through and send me a text.

I will respond by email at the very least.




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