Alberta Lawyers' Assistance Society

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Continuous Learning in the Legal Profession: Aesthetics and Well-Being

We didn’t talk about continuous learning when I was a young lawyer. I think I figured that at some point, I would just know everything. Alas, it was the thirty-fifth anniversary of my bar call earlier this month, and I continue to learn how much I don’t know.
Take Assist’s Silent Auctions. We ran our first one last year and we learned that silent auction platforms have all kinds of clever features like proxy bids, where you can arrange to outbid others on a particular item (up to a maximum amount that you specify.) We had a lot of fun, raised more than $40,000, and continued the conversation about lawyer mental health.
This year, we are continuing to learn. We received a donated printed photograph without much information other than the photographer’s name. How to describe a jaw-dropping shot of Moraine Lake that would add splash to any room? It turns out that the photographer’s website describes four different ways his photographs are presented:
  • Lustre print
  • Metallic print
  • Float-mounted metal print
  • Giclée canvas wrap
We first guessed that it was a lustre print, but as we learned more, we realized that it was a giclée canvas wrap. I didn’t even know giclée was a word in English but spellcheck didn’t reject it. It is, of course, a French term that has found its way into art terminology, “gicler” meaning “to spray.” It is a higher-end process, using pigment-based inks rather than dye-based inks. 
If you think that metallic prints or perhaps float-mounted prints are more your cup of tea, check out these two cosmic pieces: I think that the printed photo of Bo Levi is just a print and canvas and not giclée but who doesn’t love Bo Levi at the height of his career?
The website requires us to enter a value for each item we post. It is easy when we can ascertain the price at which that item readily sells, but what do we do when an item is unique?
One item that is not attracting as much attention, is a piece of art, by renowned Alberta artist Kenneth Webb. His work combines desensitized photographic images, graphic elements, and handmade painted elements. This item was appraised at $2400. Mr. Webb’s works are carried by Herringer Kiss Gallery. Someone (me if no one else bids) is going to get a special work of art at a great price. It is a sophisticated blend of silver and black hues!
Other incredible pieces of art are a painting by His Honour Judge Richard O’Gorman, titled “Absolutely”, an acrylic painting by Alberta artist, Tom Steele, titled "Spring is Coming", a limited edition watercolour print of a funky cat called “Bottoms”, an epoxy-mounted photograph of Spionkop Ridge, by Robert Lemermeyer (as an aside, please read his story of how his art helps his mental health), and a watercolour painting of a water village in Shanghai, (provenance unknown) but acquired during the donor’s travels.
If you are looking for something spooky for Halloween, check out the sculpted hand card holder. I think it would be great for storing rings or potentially earrings as well as displaying business cards. But it would also be fun to position in a bowl of candy for trick-and-treaters!
You will also see several hand-made pottery creations donated by Jenny McMordie’s father, a retired architect who has turned his artistic vision to bowls, mugs, and pitchers. We have paired these items with fun accessories, but if the colours or style of a particular piece of pottery appeals to you, please bid!
The fact that we had so many works of art in this year’s silent auction took me down the rabbit hole of the role art plays in our lives and, in particular, the relationship between appreciating art, an aesthetic experience, and well-being.
Like many other concepts in the well-being universe, this relationship is not fully understood. Research has supported the hypothesis that engaging in creative activities, like producing art, has a positive impact on our mood and affect. But what about those of us who appreciate? Does that benefit us as well?
While there are a lot of finer points to be researched and considered, a recent article states:

Aesthetic experience, in many settings, may promote well-being. Neuroaesthetics research suggest that aesthetic pleasure is derived by the interaction between emotion processing that involves reward-related areas in the brain and top-down processes derived from the relationship of the beholder with the cultural artifact.
So, not only is beauty in the beholder, but the beholder’s perception of beauty causes positive feeling, impacting well-being.
Your tastes may run to the Moraine Lake giclee, Bottoms the Cat, Absolutely or Bo Levi—all that matters is that you have a positive response to a piece of art and that it makes you feel good.
And this finding is not limited to what we traditionally view as art (paintings, sculptures etc.) We have one beautiful piece of jewellery in the Silent Auction, an absolutely sparkling diamond and sapphire ring! I am the highest bidder at this point (Friday morning) and while I would love to get this amazing ring for my current bid (which happens to be my size), I also must wear my Assist financial stewardship hat. If you would like to see the ring, please email me. You do not want to miss out on this amazing opportunity to interact with a wearable piece of art.
Architecture is also a form of art—who wouldn’t want to live in, and be surrounded by, an architectural work of art? I am fascinated by a home design package with Timber Haus, custom home builder in Edmonton which has donated a design agreement for you to design your own custom home, with a value of $3500. I have built two custom homes, and extensively renovated another two, and really enjoyed being part of the creative process culminating in a personal nesting place. Timber Haus can complete construction in Edmonton, or you can choose your own builder with the plans you develop through this package. If you aren’t sure you want to build a house, Timber Haus also designs garden suites and legal suites in accordance with Edmonton’s bylaws.
Why would you consider building a garden suite or a legal suite? To generate extra revenue (through Airbnb or VRBO or with a longer-term tenant), to accommodate multi-generational families, or perhaps to create a separate home office, gym, or guest suite. Garden suites can be built as part of a garage or possibly as free-standing structures. Very cool—and this is the stellar bargain in the Silent Auction as of the time I am writing this.
Please look at our Silent Auction offerings in terms of items that may bring joy to you. We have the art-oriented ones mentioned in this article, but what about theatre, or concerts? Whether your tastes run to Bryan Adams or orchestras, we have something for you.
And while we are barely past Thanksgiving (Doubling Down with Gratitude!) and not yet at Halloween, you may want to start making your naughty and nice lists. We have a host of gift items, some of which are bidding well below $20 at this point—there may be something for that difficult person to buy for.
Please consider having some fun with our auction website or learning more about the relationship between art—or something else that makes you happy (check out the fly fishing package) –and your well-being. It isn’t wasteful to spend time enjoying an aesthetic experience—it may recharge you so that you can descend once again into the breach.
As we like to say about our auction website—bid high and bid often. It is for a worthy cause, allowing Assist to provide professional counselling, peer support, education & awareness and community to Alberta lawyers, articling students, law students and their dependent families.
Take good care,