Saturday, March 26, 2016

Gladys's Photo Book

The book of selected photos from my mother's albums  is now ready at You can order a copy from Lulu, for $52 plus shipping, or download the PDF from my dropbox file:  It is called Gladys's Photo Book.

This provides an ideal way tp preserve the archival photos she had in her collection, as well as to disseminate them to the whole family.

The originals are in a  small album on my shelf.

Many of the pictures actually look better than the originals.  In many cases the originals were damaged by being stuck into an album then torn out, or faded, or in the case of color photos some colors had faded more than others.

In all there are roughly 230 pictures documenting her family and her life.  Enjoy!

Please note that I am not including anything in the price for my time on this project. Unfortunately since Lulu  does not insert page numbers in photo books, I had to put a text block on each pair of facing pages, and so I had to completely reorganize the book.  And also it took more pages to place all of the photos and the price is a little higher.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Mandala, a process

Mandala, a process

The theme of the Nuit blanche in Montreal this year is Red, and Christ Church Cathedral, my church, is hosting and exhibition of art by its members. I am calling my paintings “ painting RED.” I looked around the Christ Church Cathedral where the exhibit is to be held, and found a number of red objects, including, I thought, the triangular red windows at the top of the stained glass windows in the front of the church.

I photographed these windows. I enlarged the photo of just one of the small windows to get the detail. I studied them in in the most revealing way possible, by attempting to draw, then paint, them.

The triangular window had a three-fold symmetry. The corner red panes seemed to be painted as poppies, perhaps as a commemoration of The Great War. (It turns out to have been made in the 1930's, so this is not unlikely. )

What looks at first glance a red window is in fact quite complex, and makes me think of a mandala, a symmetrical depiction of the universe used for meditation. I wonder if anyone has the code to its meaning.

In order to study the structure of the mandala I hand drew it. The structure is an equilateral triangle. Inside is a circle, the radius being such that it touches the sides of the triangle.

Inside the circle is a six pointed knot, incorrectly drawn here in terms of which strand lies over which, with the sides of the knot being part of a circle with a radius greater than the distance from the side (i.e. the arc that forms the side is that of a circle with centre outside the triangle). There is another circle concentric with the first and running between the corners and the sides of the knot. There are additional circles centred on the corners of one of the triangles making the knot.  Outside that circle in each corner of the triangle is a circular pane resembling a poppy. The smaller mostly blue mandalas on either side of the triangle were added to complement the red one.

This hand drawn mandala was done to explore the complexity of the window. My hand drawn mandala is much less beautiful than the original window, in part because of the brilliance of the transmitted light from behind the window as it is seen in the church during the day.

I then decided I should make a mandala of my own life. What was central to me? I have always valued my intelligence. Now my brain cells are occupied with Lewy bodies, due to Parkinson's, and my brain has gone haywire.

My roles as mother, physician, and artist are at the corners of the triangle. The diseased neurones are impairing both mother and physician roles. Researcher, worshiper, and Parkinson patient roles are also shown.

The past (my origins) are represented by the circle on the lower left, representing my mother and father as parents, teachers, actors, craftsman, and priest. On the right is the future, with my children occupied in computer science, artistic endeavours, and giving a helping hand (occupational therapy).

Technically this drawing has problems, in part because I wrote on the yellow and orange bands before the second layer of paint and the ink of the writing ran.

I redid the mandala, with less writing and and larger illustrations. It shows my support system: my husband (Hendrik) and children (Henk, Alice, and Geoffrey), people with Parkinson's (PWP), and what holds me together (singing, dancing, and swimming). If Parkinson's can be cured, at some point, its effect on my ability to work and mother will be gone, and my brain will be able to do its job again.

Jung believed that the exercise of making a mandala could lead to understanding of our interior life. He also said that people often make mandalas at times of psychological growth. Though the results of my mandala making are not new or profound, they do help me to see more clearly where I am going and hope to go, and how.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


painting RED

Red door
Mixed media on watercolour paper

 This year I am showing some of my new paintings in a show at Christ Church Cathedral, at the corner of University Avenue and Ste Catherine St in Montreal.  The exhibition is on February 27, 2016.  The show will be up before the concert at 4:30 PM, and ends at 2 AM.  (There will be additional concerts all evenong; for the specifics see the Christ Church Cathedral post (below). )  Unfortunately the paintings will only be up for this one evening.  February 27 coincides with Nuit blanche  in Montreal, where we take back the night, and celebrate all night.

For information about Nuit Blanche at the Cathedral go to: 

For more information about Nuit Blanche in Montreal, go to:

The theme of Nuit Blanche this yearis "Red" so I have been using a lot of red paint.  Here are some of my new paintings.  

Still Life with Red Stethoscope
Oil on paint board
11" x 14 "
I decided that to get the brilliant intense reds I wanted I should paint in oils, and my brother Robert had taught me how to do so in a relatively non-toxic manner.   I collected all of my red fruit, took some avocados for variety and there on my desk was my stethoscope, which, since I was a hematologist, had to be red.  It was a little hard to capture the intensity of the color in the painting with a photo, since the flash produced glare on the photo and it was not a bright enough day to use all natural light.

I photographed various red things around the church, and these paintings are from my photographs.

Red door 2
Mixed media on sketching paper
7"x 9"
The top part of the front windows of the church look, at first glance to be red.  However on further inspection they are a multicoloured mandala. I believe these windows are in memory of The Great War, given the poppies in the corners, and the date at which they were made (1930's).
 Front windows
11"x 15"
Mixed media on watercolour paper

Before Christmas Catherine knitted herself a beautiful red hat, and I tried to capture that wonderful hat.  
Red hat
Mixed media on sketching paper
5" x 5"

Red hat 2
Mixed media on watercolour paper
15" x 22"

Friday, August 15, 2014

Family photo, with some of our Kingston relatives.

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Gwen, Hendrik, Alice, Henk, Joan, Paul, and Carter.

Joan is Hendrik's cousin. When his family first moved to Canada in 1952, Joan's family gave Hendrik's family a place to live near Kingston Ontario.  Carter is Joan's grand-daughter, and Paul her husband.   We are standing by the "climbing tree" on Isaiah Tubbs resort  where we have had our photos taken many summers since before the kids were born.  (Geoffrey is doing 2 summer terms at university  this summer, and had to stay behind.)

Gwendoline Spurll, Friends and Family, my team for the Parkinson's superwalk

I am leading a team of walkers for the Parkinson Superwalk on September 7, 2014 at Lafontaine Park in Montreal. 

I am a 63 year old hematologist, and  I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2005.  Because of progression of the disease I had to cut back on my medical practice in 2010, and I am now completely retired. 

Parkinson's Disease is a chronic progressive neurodegenerative disease resulting from the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain.  The part of the brain involved in Parkinson's Disease co-ordinates body functions such as walking, maintaining balance, and swallowing.  Depression and anxiety are  frequently part of the  disease, and sleep troubles, loss of sense of smell, and tremor are often seen. 

The prevalence of Parkinson's disease increases with age, being about 1% at age 60, to 3% at age 80.  Therefore with the increasing age of the Canadian population the incidence of Parkinson's disease, like that of Alzheimers, is expected to increase.  The incidence of Parkinson's disease increases with the number of years of education, so doctors are over-represented. 

Exercise is critical to the wellbeing of Parkinson's Disease patients.  These patients  are the extreme case of "if you don't use it you lose it."  Those who do not take part in exercise programs quickly loose mobility and may die of aspiration pneumonia, (a lung infection resulting from food going into the lungs during meals) or from complications of falls.  It is not known to what extent exercise programs can prevent the progression of the disease, but the patients who have a long survival tend to be the patients who maintain an exercise program.  Ten years after a diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease 75% of the patients are dead or severely disabled, while 25% maintain good functional mobility.  This 25% tends to contain those patients who maintain a regular exercise  program. 

The Parkinson Superwalk is the main fundraising activity of Parkinson's Canada   The money raised by the walk is used, among other things,  to support services to Parkinson's Disease patients and to support research in Parkinson"s Disease.  The funds raised in the Parkinson Superwalk  are used by the Quebec Parkinson Society and the Parkinson Society of Greater Montreal to support, among other things, the exercise and singing programs of Parkinson en Mouvement (The Parkinson Dance Project) which I take part in.  This is a non-profit organization providing exercise programs at the Belgo Building and at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (http://....).  Instructors include dance therapists, physiotherapists, and a singing coach.  The classes are instructional and fun.

Disease-specific funds like those raised by the Parkinson's Society are  also important in  supporting of research, particularly that of new researchers.  Grants from the Parkinson's Society are easier to obtain than government administered grants are for starting investigators.  This availability of these grants encourages new investigators to develop a research interest in Parkinson's disease.  This is particularly important with the reduced success rate of new investigators applying for government grants.

I am asking you to help support patients with Parkinson's Disease. by

-supporting the Parkinson's Superwalk in your area ( or 

or if you are in the Montreal area

-join my team (Gwenspurll, friends and family) for the Parkinson Superwalk September  7 in Montreal.  Register online, ( and ask your friends and family to support your walk.  Then join me and my other friends and family for a picnic afterwards  in Parc Lafontaine to celebrate the day. 

The fire alarm.

I am fire phobic. 

Although when I was young I could have won prizes for the depth of my sleep, if there was fire I was always the first there. 

When I was 16, my mother collapsed from exhaustion Christmas morning, and while her syncope was being investigated at the hospital, I made the Christmas dinner.  This was the first meal I had made  for the whole family and guests were coming.  As part of the preparation for the guests, I cleaned out the ashes in the fire place, and left them outside the house. 

Winnipeg in December is pretty cold. 

However a couple of nights later I was awakened by the sound of the door bell.  Someone passing by in the back lane had seen tires behind the house burning and flames going up the back of the house.  The ashes  I had thought were dead had started to burn.

Another time blankets in one of the kids bedrooms were pushed against a night light.  I woke to the smell of smoke and pulled the smouldering bedding out of the house.  The only damage was to a few floor tiles. 

More recently I was visiting a friend in South Carolina.  A week after I returned to Montreal she phoned me to tell me her house had burned to the ground.  The garage door opener had been malfunctioning and smouldered  for some days, then caught fire.  The fire chief told her that if anyone had been home they would have died, because they would have been so sedated by the carbon monoxide that by the time the fire alarm went off, they would not have heard the alarm. 

Previously we had had a carbon monoxide alarm in the house. But it kept going off, and each time it sounded we called the fire station, and they sent a fire truck with lights flashing and sirens going, and they checked the house and found there was no carbon monoxide in the house.  Finally we  put the alarm between pillows and returned it to Canadian Tire, where they "fixed" it with a hammer.  We had been reluctant to replace the carbon monoxide alarm, but given my friend's experience I got one for the upstairs and the one floor main floor. So far, as long as we have not heated alcohol or burned the toast, the carbon monoxide alarms  have behaved themselves. 

A week ago I was up in the night and I noticed a "Pip, Pip" about every thirty seconds.  It took me a few minutes to recognize the sound as the fire alarm.  It sounded as though it was coming from the alarm on the second floor landing.   I tried to reach it standing on a chair, but it was too high.  I carried the ladder from the basement and had my husband Hendrik hold the bottom rungs,  I removed the old battery, dated 2010, and replaced it with a new one dated 2014.  But I wasn't sure I had snapped the battery all the way on, and the pipping continued.   Hendrik released the ladder and practically ran down the stairs roaring.

 "What is wrong?"

"I am afraid of heights."

"But you weren't up the ladder.  I was."

"I had fear of heights for you."

Our son Geoffrey got home, all 6'2" of him, and changed the battery while I held the ladder. 

"Pip, pip."

There is another fire alarm in the back bedroom.  The sound did not seem to be  coming from there, but just in case  I brought the ladder in and opened the fire alarm.  There were places for 2 batteries inside, but the attachments for the batteries were just hanging down, empty.  The sort of thing that is really embarrassing to find after the whole family dies in a fire.  I have no idea how that came to be, but I installed new batteries. 

"Pip, pip."

"Darn, that battery we put in in the hall must not be the right brand."  We went out to the hardware store, but that was the only brand they had. 

Back at home, I was a little puzzled that the sound seemed a little louder in the front bedroom than in the hall.  Carefully using my imperfect directional hearing, I found a smoke alarm in a magazine box near the ceiling in the front bedroom.  Once the battery in that was changed the "Pip, pip" stopped. 

Two days later, "Pip, pip." This time it seemed to be coming from the basement.  Quite a feat of precision, considering the batteries have been in for four years.  Now that the batteries in the basement fire alarm are changed the house is quiet. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Watercolour Effects, Exhibit of paintings by members of Dix Coups de Pinceau

Primary Sunset, 2013, watercolour on paper, 22x30 inches, $500

Storms Ahead, 2013, watercolour on paper, 22xx30 inches, $500

Brooding, 2013 watercolour on paper, 11x14.5 inches, $150

Autumn Sunset. 2013Watercolour on paper, 14.5x19 inches, $250

Tropical Manitoba, 2013, watercolour on paper, 13.5x18 inches, $250

Manitoba Wetlands, 2013, watercolour on paper, 13.5x18 inches, $250

Sunset at Souris, 2013, watercolour on paper, 14x18 inches, $250

September Fields, 2013, watercolour on paper, 9x12, $100
When in my singing group we were asked to write a song, I found myself recounting the things I miss about Manitoba, mainly the feeling of freedom created by the wide open skies.

My paintings this year reflect that feeling of wonder and freedom.

Dix coups de pinceau will be exhibiting from the 15 to the 22 of October, at Galerie Contemporain, vernissage the 17 October.