BILLY PARKER: the fool who changed my life

Being a fool myself, I suffer them gladly. You might say, I’m a bit foolhardy.

I’ve told this story many times to many people who have needed to hear it. I have been trying to write it down for years. The following is the story of Billy Parker:

Seven years ago, I was drowning in grief for the loss of my 27 year marriage and had just started living very much alone in my little cottage with an art studio steps away. I loved the place immediately: it was the perfect place to weep and I wept it clean. I remember eating toast alone every morning, afraid I would choke on inhaled crumbs as I gasped between sobs. I had just one week earlier finally taken off my thin, miss-shapen wedding band and placed it on the nail that held up a calendar, stuck on an earlier month. I hadn’t laughed in months. I was quickly getting to know my new neighbours who share my driveway, a thoughtful and caring couple of retired teachers, who I will call Al and Wendy Nees. It was a very snowy early March, about 5:00 in the afternoon.  The stage is set. 

A knock on the door. I was surprised to see a strange little man, head angled forward, smiling with unbridled enthusiasm. He looked wiry even through his dark winter clothes: a friendly jockey; a hungry garden gnome. His voice was loud and enthusiastic. Hi! I’m Billy Parker! I‘m cycling cross Canada (in the snow, remember).  I depend on strangers for a place to sleep. Just one night each place. I’ll be gone before you’re up.  You can look me up on the computer! SOMEBODY’s writing a blog about ME!  He sees I am looking slightly uneasy, confused… Now…I know you’re a singlelady (he says this as if it’s one word) —I can tell by your car……. so I’m not going to ask to sleep in your house but….what’s that building? That’s my studio, I said, wondering what else my Pontiac Vibe said about me. I was just about to go do some painting. Well, it’s perfect for me. Just need a roof over my head. Got my own bedding and food. I’ll be gone in the morning. I just need you to help put my bike inside. I looked to see that Al and Wendy’s cars were both in our shared driveway and I thought, well….he is either a crazy man or an angel sent from God. His smile disarmed me and I chose angel. “OK” I said. I helped him put his heavily laden bike in my studio thinking if he was a lunatic and committed a crime, his getaway vehicle would be a bicycle in the snow…and I felt safe. Now I can’t pay you, but you can take my picture, he said, smiling as if he had given me a gift. So I did–and I turned up the propane stove and as I left, I said “is there anything else you need?” Well, I could do with some grub, he answered quickly, ignoring what he had said earlier about having food. I gave him the choice of spaghetti or steak and he chose steak with a pure and childlike joy, astonished at his own good luck.  I told him to come into the house at 7:00 when I planned on asking Al and Wendy if they would like to join me for a drink. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be alone with this holy fool but I sure wanted to hear his story!

Now unbeknown to me, Billy had stopped at every other house on my country road including Al and Wendy’s. Wendy doesn’t miss a thing and I can imagine her mortified look as she and Al followed the crazyman with their eyes from their house to mine. Al! Al! She’s letting him stay! She just helped him put the bike in her studio! What are we going to do?  He could be dangerous! What is Lynne thinking?! When I shyly phoned to see if they would come over while Billy ate his steak, I was surprised at how quickly they said yes and how relieved they sounded.

So I made Billy’s supper with the last steak I had nicked from my ex’s farm. He, Al and Wendy met at my house at 7:00. We all sat around my hand-painted table. I put the steak before him with a salad on the side. He drank the wine I offered and for the next three hours proceeded to tell tales of his travels so tall I laughed the entire time at the absurdity. I couldn’t stop laughing. Let’s see… there was the time he stayed the night at a butterfly collector’s house but none of the wings matched. He met a counterfeiter of Canadian tire money and also a prostitute who accepted Canadian tire money. This went on and on. He didn’t stop talking even to eat until finally Wendy stopped him and said, “ Billy, Lynne has made you that nice steak and you haven’t touched it for the last two hours. Are you going to eat it? His reply was mysterious and in my new frame of mind, hilarious. He said Nope not yet. I’m just going to drink wine and talk and when I go back to Lynne’s studio to sleep I’m going to bring the steak with me and cut it into strips with a pair of scissors. Then he looked at the salad and said, and I’m allergic to that green stuff. Then he told stories for another hour and wish I could remember them all. They were crazy tales and I laughed and laughed. I felt under a most hilarious spell. I do remember taking my attention away from him for 5 seconds to ask Al something and when I turned back to look at Billy, he seemed to have fallen asleep sitting at the table until it was his turn to talk again.  Just before he was ready to head out into the studio with his scissors and steak, he leaned back in his chair, looked around and said, In my travels I stay at a lot of different places. I stay at some normal places and some weird places. This is definitely one of the weird places. I’m not sure why he said that: it could have been my slightly unconventional decorating or it could be the large series of tornado art-constructions in my studio. Regardless, I found this too hilarious. He thinks I’m weird?! Looking back I felt honoured. He was true to his word and left in the morning before I was up after having coffee with Al and Wendy who still now rise hours before I do. 

I can’t say I recommend my course of action to everyone. But in this instance I am grateful I let this fool stay. I thank God even now for this gift. I never before (or since) laughed so much in one night and this laughter broke down so many roadblocks and walls, disarmed ogres, made demons flee….and started a very nice friendship with my neighbours.  

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Hebrews 13:2

Handmade in Uxbridge

I have been doing some slightly smaller work for a pop-up show December 12-22 behind Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge Ontario. Sizes and prices will be published soon. Questions?Email Opening reception December 14, 1-4 with special guest KEN WELSH entertaining the crowd. This is the only kind of shopping experience I can handle! Featuring several local artists. See hours below.

  • Thursday December 12, 10-8
  • Friday December 13, 10-8
  • Saturday December 14, 10-4
  • Sunday December 15, 11-5
  • Monday December 16, 10-6
  • Tuesday December 17, 10-6
  • Wednesday December 18, 10-8
  • thursday December 19, 9-8
  • Friday December 20, 9-9
  • Saturday December 21, 9-7
  • Sunday December 22, 9-6

Showing Now at The Second Wedge

Another Garden Variety Angel

I am happy to be showing a mixture of my work at The Second Wedge Brewing Co, Uxbridge Ontario. It is up now and will continue to November 3. I will be having a reception for the show on Thursday, October 24, 6:00-9:00. Dawna Huizenga will be my musical guest for the last part of the evening.

When I found out the owners of The Second Wedge were storm chasers and tornado lovers, I knew I had to resurrect my tornado series to mix in with my newer work. The following is my artist statement written 5 years ago about this series. I called it “Spin”: Weather is such a powerful metaphor for human emotion. And that writhing weather monster, the tornado, is a particularly apt way of describing the trauma, the fury, the intensity of loss. It’s hard not to take a tornado personally: it gets to the point by narrowing down and strikes a specific spot. It comes out of the blue. We don’t know what hit us. We are caught in a whirlwind of emotion. Everything is up in the air. There is no emergency plan for these twists of fate. To put a positive spin on it, a tornado (that snaking shape-shifter) is just energy. It makes a long-winded metaphor that lasts and lasts because it wrecks and then absorbs whatever it touches down on. What starts out as an emblem of emotional devastation contorts into an expression of fury and then is reborn as a metaphor for unstoppable creativity, play and passion. Like the flowering cross, can it become a cornucopia? Blooming tornados! Elijah goes to Heaven, Dorothy goes to Oz. One thing for certain is this: we are pulled out of our orbit and dropped in a different place, undone. Here is a link to a video Steven Frank created a few years ago of me talking about the tornado series.

This show is a mix of old and new work, the newest being my carved relief sculptures. I call this ongoing series my “Epiphanies”. The following is my artist statement from that series: I’ve always loved symmetry, especially imperfect symmetry where pattern is revealed and then lost but still the intention of the pattern remains. I am drawn to the shape of the equilateral cross with its reference to life and death; arm-stretching cosmic hugs, whirligigs and flowers with stillness at their centres; the crucifixion and the flowering resurrection. My friend and I were talking about the small epiphanies of childhood—instances when we sensed an invitation from God: the mysterious comfort of a statue of Virgin and child along a well-frequented path; wind animating treetops; a song about the Magi breaking into a child’s sad night. As I do these small dense painted carvings, I realize they represent hints of hope: modest epiphanies. They allude to those moments that happen in the blink of an eye, brief and easily missed…but if you manage to pay attention, life-changing.               

Lynne McIlvride …… Storm Seller; Relief Worker


Garden Variety Angel

The following is a Confusing Price List:

There is a similar price list at the actual show with arrows which are helpful. Basically the relief wood carvings that are still for sale are enlarged. Otherwise they are already sold.

Thanks so much to Lesley and Michael, Rob and Joanne for all the help hanging the show!


After decades of art-making, I am still delighted when I am led into an unanticipated direction. I’ve always liked wood. (Who doesn’t?!) But my past experience has been limited to woodblock carving for prints. In the commission I finished last year for ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Help’ Church, I incorporated relief woodcarving into the frames. The placement of the commissions in the niches of the church and their content of the presence and workings of the Holy Spirit all sent me back to a way of art-making from years ago before the tornados hit that was characterized by hope and the munificence of God. This is timely I think because surely we are living in an appalling and absurd time in need of hope.

I fell in love with woodcarving doing this commission

I’ve always loved symmetry, especially imperfect symmetry where carved pattern is revealed and then lost but still the intention of the pattern remains. I also love the shape of the equilateral cross with its reference to life and death; arm-stretching cosmic hugs; whirligigs and flowers with stillness at their centers; the crucifixion and the flowering resurrection. My friend and I were talking about the small epiphanies of childhood–instances when we sensed an invitation from God: the comfort and mystery of a statue of Virgin and Child on a well-frequented path; wind animating the tops of trees; a song about the magi breaking into a child’s sad night. As I do these small dense painted carvings, I realize they represent hints of hope; modest epiphanies. They allude to those moments that happen in the blink of an eye, brief and easily missed but if you manage to pay attention, life-changing.

The Epiphany series will be shown at the Artist Project Toronto February 21-24, 2019

For more images from the series click here.


I don’t have very many markers of time. One of the few is my yearly solo show in my studio  on whatever weekend Easter happens to fall. This year it is March 25,26, and 27. 

  This show started as a way of coping (and perhaps avoiding) difficult family gatherings. More importantly, it has always been a quiet way to celebrate my faith in a way that includes my art. Especially appropriate to Easter, I am training to serve the chalice in the Anglican Church I go to. John, the priest was naming all of the components and for the first time I learned about the piscina, which is a little plate in the corner where any leftover consecrated wine and bread are put and then thrown outside where the wine can soak into the earth and the birds can eat the bread. The part about the birds moved me: the innocence of sparrows snacking on holy communion crumbs. Such small bits of hope.  

 I hope you come to my show. It’s an offering of sorts. There will be small constructed paintings of lively flocks and striped cats, tornado sculptures, linoprints and etchings. Most of these things are for sale: the show itself is a gift. 1-5 each day or email to make an appointment if you would rather do that. This show is in my studio in the tiny village of Utica: 14260 Marsh Hill Road.  

Cat watching birds

The Opening was Wide with People

I feel very fortunate to be an artist. Vulnerable, but fortunate. My show is hanging; the Opening was wide with people; the talk, thankfully, is over. And there were no pearls to swine here! Both the art and the talk were received graciously and intelligently. Truly, I’m thankful for those who looked and listened so carefully. I’m thankful to God for giving me a way to tell this story. I am not glad for what happened: I’m still spinning. But I’m thankful I am an artist and that a few found encouragement in this series born out of such devastation. The show continues until June 21st.

Lynne McIlvride's Art Show
Gallery A


miniature cat painting
Cat Landing on her Feet

Safe Landing, Cold Feet

Cat Falling: Step One: Terror

Tomorrow (Sunday June 7) is my opening for “The Tornado that Turned into a Cat.” Oshawa McLaughlin Gallery, 12-4, downstairs in Gallery A. 18Today I try to figure out what to say in my talk. It will probably consist of what I have written in the last few weeks in this blog. I have put a lot of effort into this show and I admit some trepidation. Please join me tomorrow. My talk is scheduled for 1:30 but it can be avoided if you just want to come to the opening. (Give yourself a little extra time to skirt around Oshawa road closures). The show continues to June 21st. Don’t miss it!

Cat Falling: Step One: Terror
Cat Falling: Step One: Terror

Price List for Gallery “A” McLaughlin Solo Show called: “The Tornado that Turned into a CAT”

Price ListInstallationShot7InstallationShot2InstallationShot6

Hello! After 2 1/2 grueling days, my show is finally up. (Thanks to Ann who helped deliver too much work for my little car, and Cria for bringing snacks and Marni, the gallery person who helped me set things up.) I thought I would be all new-fangled and put a price list here so you can wander around with an iPad telling you what things cost in case somebody took off with the paper price list. Here you go: I hope it’s helpful.

 Gallery A Price List

The Tornado that Turned into a Cat

Lynne McIlvride’s Price List

*Please note all sales are made through the artist only. If Lynne is not in the gallery, she can be contacted at

  1. Keep an Eye on the Sky, 2013, acrylic on paper construction and wood, NOT FOR SALE

    2. Giant Tornado, 2013-2015, mixed media constructed painting and installation, $3000.00    GiantTornado

  1. Everybody Sees You’re Blown Apart, 2013, mixed media and paper construction, photograph, $600.00
  1. Tornado Cabinet, 2013, mixed media, $2600.00

    5. Catastrophe, 2015, mixed media installation, $800.00

  1. Storm Charmers, 2013, mixed media, $2600.00
  1. A Disaster Waiting to Happen, 2013, mixed media, $2600.00
  1. !, 2013, mixed media, found objects, $2600.00
  1. Look! No Hands! 2013, NOT FOR SALE
  1. Do Not Be Terrified, 2013, mixed media, $2600.00
  1. Blooming Tornado!, 2013, mixed media, fresh flowers, $2600.00

  12.The Turning, 2014, mixed media paper construction, $2000.00

13. Touching Down, 2014, mixed media paper construction, $1500.00

14. Turn, Turn, Turn, 2014, mixed media paper construction, $1000.00

  1. Inside the Tornado 1, 2015, acrylic and watercolour on paper, oil on glass, $200.00
  1. Inside the Tornado 2, 2015, acrylic and watercolour on paper, oil on glass, $300.00
  1. Inside the Tornado 3, 2015, acrylic and watercolour on paper, oil on glass, $550.00
  1. Inside the Tornado 4, 2015, acrylic and watercolour on paper, oil on glass, $550.00  
  1. Flying Colours is a an installation made of reduction linoprints. These individual original prints are for sale. The largest ones are $200 each, the medium $150.00 and the smallest(Walking Tornados) are $75.00 each.LargeLinoprints
  1. Twister Sleeping, opaque watercolour on paper construction, oil on frame, 2015, $950.00 SOLD
  2. Step 1: Terror, 2015, opaque watercolour on paper constructions, silver leaf on glass, 2015, $500.00
  3. Step 2: Knowing Up from Down, 2015, opaque watercolour on paper constructions, silver leaf on glass, 2015, $500.00
  4. Step 3: Twist! opaque watercolour on paper constructions, silver leaf on glass, 2015, $500.00
  5. She Lands on her Feet, 2015, opaque watercolour on paper construction, gold leaf on glass, $1500.00
  6. Pocket Tornados, 2014, $250 eachPocketTornados
  1. ……Angel Having a Bath, 2015, $950.00AngelHavingABath
  2. Small Cat Landing, 2015, NOT FOR SALE
  3. Domestic Tornado 1, 2014, free- hanging fibre sculpture,$1000.00
  4. Domestic Tornado 2, 2014, free-hanging fibre sculpture, NOT FOR SALE
  5. Domestic Tornado 3, 2014, free- hanging fibre sculpture,$500.00
  6. Domestic Tornado 4, 2014, free- hanging fibre sculpture,$800..00
  7. Domestic Tornado 5, 2014, free- hanging fibre sculpture, $1000.00
  8. Domestic Tornado 6, 2014, free- hanging fibre sculpture, $700.00
  9. Mixed Metaphor, 2014-2015, sculptural installation, $2000.00

Come to my show!

Storm factory

Well, tomorrow I start setting up my show called “The Tornado that Turned into a Cat” in Gallery A in the root cellar of the McLaughlin Gallery. The show follows the evolution of the metaphor as I have tried to explain in the three previous blog entries. Here is an invitation:

Correctedmafu2015This is a gallery within a gallery: an artist initiated gallery within the larger public gallery. Any sales go directly through the artists and are not handled by the gallery so please contact me at if you have any questions.

If I get my act together (I am VERY tired), I will take a few pictures of the installation. More importantly, I will post a price list online as a blog entry and leave the URL at the gallery. There will be price lists there too but people accidentally take them.

I hope you will come. I am excited about the show. There are a few loose ends. There is a short looped movie my brother and I did. I would like to incorporate that into the show but am not sure how. There will also be a kind of a book that is a cross between a catalogue and a collaged artist’s book. I haven’t really done that yet. Good night.

Storm factory
Storm factory