what's in store

In an effort to make it a little simpler for people to figure out what paintings are where and who you need to contact to inquire about them, I will be changing the organization of my website a little. If you frequent this site or my Facebook page often, you may have noticed the addition of a ‘store’ (this website) or ‘shop now’ button (Facebook page) near the top of the page. This is because I have opened an Etsy shop and that will be the primary place to purchase my work directly from my studio (me). I thought this might be an easier way for people to find out what I have on hand for sale and to have a variety of payment options to choose from instead of just e-transfer or trusting me with your credit card number over the phone. The payment methods used within Etsy are secure and it will let you know if something is in stock or not. I think it’ll be a little simpler for everyone in the long run.

The ‘available’ gallery on this site then will be so you can view paintings I have for sale in the 5 galleries across the country that represent my work. You are welcome to purchase them of course, but you’ll have to contact the gallery listed with the details of the painting.

My Christmas cards and other limited edition printed paper goods will be for sale on Etsy too. I posted these two small pieces to my shop earlier today:

  after the falls, rearguard falls, BC,  mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $200 + GST,  2018

after the falls, rearguard falls, BC, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $200 + GST, 2018

  sunset, maligne lake, jasper national park,  mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $200 + GST,  2018

sunset, maligne lake, jasper national park, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $200 + GST, 2018

Once a painting has sold, it will appear in the gallery with the year corresponding to when it was painted. I hope this helps make perusing my site and figuring out what is where a little easier for you. Happy shopping!

My sketchbook journaling class next Sunday (November 18th) in Edmonton is full, but there are still spots in my acrylic mixed media workshop (November 16th & 17th). For details and to register click here.


christmas cards of 2018

When I was a kid and got busy drawing, sometimes I would create a narrative in my head as I was making the drawing. Occasionally I would tell the story of the drawing out loud as I was drawing. Oh yea, I was that kid. The one drawing and talking audibly to themselves. I’ve since learned to keep the narration as my inner monologue, especially when out drawing in a public place. The story that forms can help inspire the drawing or series of drawings I’m working on. This was the case with this year’s Christmas card designs. I wanted to make the theme cats because last year it was dogs, but what about cats? Since anthropomorphizing animals seems to be my jam, I got thinking about things I like and dislike about Christmas.

Christmas parties.

Not all Christmas parties, mind you. I’ve worked for a lot of small businesses over the years and the Christmas parties have been pretty great. Good food, excellent beverages, games, dressing up, visiting with co-workers you may not get to see all the time. But then there are those moments that get captured on camera, shared on social media and giggled about for years afterward. ‘Remember that time that ________ came dressed up as ______ at the Christmas Party?! OMG!!

So I created 5 different characters in my head and on paper to capture and celebrate these awkward festive moments.

The overly happy and photogenic Santa.

046E5FD9-0DE0-46D0-BF46-5D358CD8802E.JPG

We all know that one; the one who looks amazing in anything, is always smiling and is super happy all the time. The one that can be mid sentence and flash the most dazzling smile for a quick photo without missing a beat in their damn story. The one with the perfect teeth and fantastic hair? Yea. That one.

Then we have Santa’s not-so-happy little helper.

56AEF0A7-5187-43E5-9075-66EEE7C33189.JPG

You know the one; agrees to help even though he really isn’t into parties and rarely makes appearances at these things…and then gets roped into wearing the damn outfit and probably have to be someone’s designated driver or stay after the party and help clean up the mess he didn’t want to be there making. Also isn’t a fan of the camera but is photographed because he’s there and looks so cute. Poor dude.

Next; the front-camera-selfie failure.

6A607F05-49A8-4BF6-8E23-3C580C1840FF.JPG

Maybe she grabbed your phone by accident, or someone else’s phone. Maybe she’s been drinking or multitasking and suddenly there is that digital shutter sound ‘kachunk!’ and, oh. Dang. Now there is a derpy photo of her with many unknown chins and silly set of fuzzy antlers on her head staring at you. Sigh.

My personal favorite; the cookie-licker!

3901675A-E08A-435E-9DD9-AA259C92CE67.JPG


’If I lick it, it’s mine!’ is definitely a rule I’ve loosely thrown about in my own life. Maybe it’s because I’m an only child and am not good with sharing at times, or maybe because I’ve had friends take a ‘bite’ of something only to scarf half the thing they were merely trying, or perhaps because I have some friends who are germ-o-phobes and it’s just fun to lick the cookie they just took or the rim of the glass they are drinking from just to see their face. Sometimes it works for staking your claim on baked goods or beverage containers, and sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, I still find the concept funny.

Lastly we have the dreaded mistletoe.

6BA7AF99-3413-43E1-829E-9E143F15C582.JPG


People watching at a party can be fun. There he is, off in the corner, sipping quietly and contentedly watching the holiday shenanigans from a safe distance. Then there is a gentle tap on his shoulder. He looks around and the shoulder-tapper points up. Dammit!

0A8FABA2-2648-4E3E-A5C2-423A0F5A2424.JPG


The cards are now available for purchase. I sent off some to Bluerock Gallery today, and some will be available at Sweet Jolie in Edmonton for their holiday event on November 30th. I’m still waiting to see if Transcend Coffee will be carrying them again at the Ritchie and Garneau cafes. I should know about that next week sometime. Otherwise you can purchase them from me in my new Etsy shop, which I set up for such a purpose. The cards are blank inside with my logo and website on the back and they each come brown craft paper envelopes. The physical venues will be selling the cards individually but I am selling them in sets of 5 in my Etsy shop.

That’s all for meow.

christmas in the country

I know, right? Major faux-pas using the ‘c’ word so early in November. But it is November and from my view currently there is fresh snow on the ground and a wintry nip to the air. It also happens to be the first day for Christmas in the Country at the Leighton Art Center near Millarville. I have a bin there with 14 pieces in it. The set up for this particular show is one of a rummage sale, but for art. All participants were instructed to bring a clear plastic bin of a certain size, and up to 15 unframed works to be sleeved and labeled for easy identification at time of purchase. The perfect opportunity to put some of my small works on paper, oil sketches and smaller acrylic paintings together for sale. Below is a visual catalogue of the works I have for sale there for the next two weekends.

  winter garden with wren house II,  mixed media on wood panel, 16x16(in), $450 + GST,  2018

winter garden with wren house II, mixed media on wood panel, 16x16(in), $450 + GST, 2018

This painting came from a photo I took of my garden last January. I waited too long, eased into laziness by our mild autumn weather the previous October. November came and like a switch the weather got cold, the snow came and stayed, and the garden did not get cleaned up until spring. It did make for good creative fodder for painting and drawing though, so it was still kind of a ‘win’.

  the garden piano, mells UK,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in),  SOLD ,  2018

the garden piano, mells UK, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), SOLD, 2018

A lovely weather piano that sits at the back of the Walled Garden at Mells, in Mells, Somerset over in the UK. I can’t remember what the other wooden structure is to the left, but there is something very beautiful and kind of lonely about this piano spending it’s retirement years in a walled garden in the English countryside. The Walled Garden at Mells is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. You can have tea outside at one of the many tables scattered throughout the garden, and if the weather is wet, there is a seating area inside a greenhouse where you can sip underneath a growing tangled ceiling of grape vines. The whole setup is rather magical, and part of it warranted a painting to commemorate it.

  a clear july day, lac la biche, AB,  mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $175 + GST,  2018

a clear july day, lac la biche, AB, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $175 + GST, 2018

Back in July we made our first visit to Lac La Biche and camped on the island campground there. I had no idea Alberta had any island campgrounds. There were quite a few walking trails snaking around the forest and along the shore of the island. This particular beach had lovely sand and some benches for sitting. It was a very hot day and the flies were horrendous. A typical summer in northern parts of Canada, really.

  early spring, vermilion provincial park, AB,  mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in),  SOLD ,  2018

early spring, vermilion provincial park, AB, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), SOLD, 2018

In the winter the wonderful wooded trails of the provincial park here in Vermilion are strictly for cross-country skiers. But in the warmer months, it is a dog walking, trail running, berry picking, rowing haven. The tender leaves of spring and long tree shadows are what prompted me to paint this little piece. That light green canopy and dark trees shadows making neat patterns on the fresh spring grass is just the nicest memory of spring time around here.

  our backyard, january evening,  mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in),  SOLD ,  2018

our backyard, january evening, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), SOLD, 2018

Our neighbors have a bright light at the back of their garage and it casts the most interesting light patterns on the snow at night.

  early october snowfall I,  mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $175 + GST,  2018

early october snowfall I, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $175 + GST, 2018

I missed the first and second snowfalls that happened in September while I was away on either coast. I happened to be home for the third which was a pretty substantial one. We got about 30cm of it! Painting snowy scenes is one of my favorite things to paint. The shapes, shadows and light play on snow are so fun to capture in paint, paper and ink. I love the way the snow changes the shape of the tree in this little painting.

  early october snowfall II,  mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in),  SOLD ,  2018

early october snowfall II, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), SOLD, 2018

  gordon leslie conservation area, AB,  oil on mansonite, 9x12(in), $150 + GST,  2018

gordon leslie conservation area, AB, oil on mansonite, 9x12(in), $150 + GST, 2018

The Bearded Dude and I spent a fine day last month pheasant hunting (him) and sketching (me). I like the way the light plays on the rolling hills around here. The foreground can be in complete shadow while off in the distance a hillside can become an illuminated beacon of gold as the sun escapes the cloud ceiling. The effect is very fleeting and quite marvelous.

  autumn garden,  oil on masonite, 9x12(in), $150 + GST,  2018

autumn garden, oil on masonite, 9x12(in), $150 + GST, 2018

The wild tangle of growth that was the garden shortly before I started cleaning it up for the winter. So many interesting colors and textures to the dormant foliage.

  bere point, malcolm island, BC,  oil on masonite, 9x12(in), $150 + GST,  2018

bere point, malcolm island, BC, oil on masonite, 9x12(in), $150 + GST, 2018

My friend Robin and I spent a lovely few hours sitting on huge drift wood logs pushed up onto the shallow, pebbly beach of Bere Point sketching with our oil paints. The sky above us was pretty clear, but over the water and above the mountains near the horizon, it looked like a storm was brewing, or wet weather at the very least.

  prickly pear I,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in),  SOLD ,  2018

prickly pear I, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), SOLD, 2018

  prickly pear II,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in),  SOLD ,  2018

prickly pear II, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), SOLD, 2018

  sand dune I,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in),  SOLD ,  2018

sand dune I, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), SOLD, 2018

  sand dune II,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST,  2018

sand dune II, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST, 2018

These last four drawings were inspired by a walk on an active sand dune near Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan. There was so much prickly pear in bloom along the sandy path leading to the dune, and the dune itself was quite impressive and very hot when the sun came out. The ripples created in the sand by the wind are so fascinating, not to mention the shape of the dune itself and how quickly it can change due to weather or tricks of the light. These four drawings were done from memory, not long after we got back from our visit.

If you haven’t made a trip to the Leighton Center before, I encourage you to. For one, the drive is lovely and the history of the house is interesting as well, not to mention the artwork housed inside the house. The list of artists that have bins of work in this show is a long one. There will be something for every art lover on your list, to be sure. Go out and explore!

views of 'the six'

Its been over a year now since we moved from Edmonton, a city of over a million people, to Vermilion, a small town of just over 4000 residents. A lot has changed since we moved here. We finally have a decent coffee shop, for one. Much of the empty storefronts that lined the main street have slowly blossomed into new and flourishing small businesses. An institution on the main street called ‘Craig’s’ shut down last year after over 100 years of business, but the building it occupied has been renovated and divided into smaller spaces and other shops have moved in as a result. We got a new mural on the side of the Benjamin Moore paint store. Slowly I am getting to know some of the residents and business owners as I venture out to run errands, drop paintings off at the post office, pick up groceries, grab coffee and see what new temptations await me in a few of my favorite stores. I confess, I don’t get out much. I spend the majority of my time working in my basement in the studio. A neighbor across the street who works at the post office remarked that she sees me more at the post office than she does on our street. Some of the residents know me because they see me walking the dogs and taking random photos of things with my phone. The pace here is great. You can do a grocery run near the supper hour and there isn’t a huge line-up at the till or trouble finding parking. You don’t have to pay for parking at all here! The biggest traffic problem we have is when all directions of the four-way stop are occupied and folks are trying to graciously wave you through instead of adhering to the right-of-way policy that normally governs a four-way stop. And occasionally two vehicles will stop in the middle of the street while the occupants chat through rolled down windows about how the day is going, and you have to go around or honk gently to remind them to keep moving.

I don’t think I can ever live in a large city again. The noise? The traffic? All those damn lights at night? I can stand on my back deck and see stars and northern lights! This evening on our dog walk a huge flock of snow geese flew over us as we walked through the baseball park. We couldn’t see these things from our noisy backyard in Edmonton. This is not a rant against cities. Living in a small town has made me appreciate cities in a different way. I love to visit them, enjoy their offerings, and then head back to the quiet rolling hills and wide streets of small town life.

One city in particular I love visiting is Toronto. T-dot. The six. I just sent a small batch of Toronto themed paintings to Canvas Gallery in Toronto. These paintings are chalk full of pleasant memories for me. I thought I’d share some of them.

  the pond, high park, TO,  mixed media on canvas, 36x36(in), $2270 + GST,  2018

the pond, high park, TO, mixed media on canvas, 36x36(in), $2270 + GST, 2018

High Park! I love this park and it’s a short walk from my Aunt Margie’s apartment on Bloor. When I go and visit her and my Uncle Patrick we go for at least one amble through this park. Usually we take the path that runs through the off-leash area because Margie knows how much I miss my dogs when I am away. The photo that this painting was inspired from was from I think my second visit to this park. There are a few ponds in there. I can’t remember which pond this one is…. maybe closer to the Japanese garden? Anyhow, I do remember I arrived fresh off the subway from the airport, dropped off my bag in my room in her flat and off we went for a much needed walk. It was a gorgeous autumn day. I sure as hell didn’t need the coat I brought. The lighting was perfect; low and golden and hitting the autumn leaves at just the right angle, making very satisfying patterns on the pathway, and then I saw this! It reminded me of a Monet painting. I had no idea how I would paint it at the time, but I figured if I got the photo my brain would work out the ‘how’ when the time came. And it did.

  casa coffee, kensington market, TO,  mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), $570 + GST,  2018

casa coffee, kensington market, TO, mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), $570 + GST, 2018

I try to time my visits to Toronto to include a weekend. Saturday morning we get up at the crack of dawn, dress, stumble down the stairs, pile into Margie’s car and head for the St. Lawrence Market for coffee and croissants in the basement. We meet up with a whole group of people and it differs slightly every time. Uncle Patrick usually buys the first round of coffees while the rest of us doff our coats and bags to claim seats and wander into the pastry area to choose a nice flaky breakfast. We go early so we can get parking and seats at coffee, and leave before the rest of Toronto comes to do their weekend shopping. By the time the crowds are thick upstairs, our group has downed at least two cups of coffee, maybe more pastry than we should, and are making our good-byes. Then up the stairs, back to the car and off to Kensington Market for coffee stop number two. Or at least, we used to have coffee stop number two. Casa Coffee doesn’t exist anymore. It’s a new cafe. The outside has been redone. It’s all shiny and new with a shiny, new proprietor. The historical grime has been renovated away. I painted this to commemorate our forgotten spot. Like a lot of interesting but run-down areas, Kensington is going through its gentrification phase. Out with the old, in with the new and more expensive. Out with the character and community and in with… well, that remains to be seen now doesn’t it?

  old houses, kensington market, TO,  mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), $570 + GST,  2018

old houses, kensington market, TO, mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), $570 + GST, 2018

The Group of Seven are still a major source of inspiration for my subject matter. When I first started looking at their paintings, particularly the early work of Lawren Harris, I was so puzzled why he made the houses look like they were being stretched toward the top of the canvas. I didn’t get it until I went to Toronto for the first time and saw some of the old neighborhoods. That’s why he painted them like that, because that is what they are like! Tall and skinny. The bright colors and graffiti that cover them in Kensington Market are absolute eye candy. This row of houses is not far from where Casa Coffee used to be. I hope to God they don’t get knocked down so that stupidly tall and overpriced condos can be built.

  late afternoon, dundas street W, TO,  mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), $570 + GST,  2018

late afternoon, dundas street W, TO, mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), $570 + GST, 2018

The other stop we always make when I come to visit is to the Art Gallery of Ontario or the AGO. I have probably spent more time than is healthy visiting and revisiting the works of the Group of Seven they have on display in their permanent collection. I love getting up close to their paintings to see the texture of the paint on the canvas. It’s so thick!! The Galleria Italia is a favorite spot to have a quiet coffee. The wall of windows has a stellar view of the row of old houses-turned-tiny-galleries across the street from the main entrance. This painting shows some of the houses from the viewpoint of the street as the low November sun illuminates the rooftops in the late afternoon. I snapped the photo I painted this from coming out of the gallery to catch the street car back to Margie’s apartment. One can’t miss 5pm cocktails at Uncle Patrick’s before dinner when one is in town for a visit!

  sunset on bloor, TO,  mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $1010 + GST,  2018

sunset on bloor, TO, mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $1010 + GST, 2018

This view is perhaps my favorite thing about visiting Toronto. It’s the view from my aunt’s apartment, painted using a very blurry reference photo from my Instax Mini camera. I was experimenting with the ‘B’ mode where you can hold a long exposure in minimal light with no flash. It worked pretty well, but what attracted me most about the photo was the color it captured; those pinks and purples. The movement of the taillights on the bottom right was an added bonus to be sure. A piece capturing the evening rush hour and the beautiful rosy light everything is bathed in.

I head back for my second visit of the year in December and am really looking forward to it. I’ll be visiting my usual haunts and hopefully creating some new ones. Toronto is a huge city but feels very homey to me, thanks in part to the friends I’ve made there and the places I keep going back to. These are some of my favorite views of ‘The Six’. I hope you enjoy them as well.




what was the question?

I've been asked many times how I decide what to paint, and my answer usually something like 'it seemed like a good idea at the time' or 'I've never painted {insert random subject matter here} before, so I thought I'd give it a try.'

I've figured out in the last few months I like to paint things to answer a question.

How would I go about painting this?

Last summer was our first summer in our house in Vermilion. We didn't know what to expect from the garden so we didn't plant a lot of flowers, but one of the best things we did do was plant sweetpeas in the narrow bed that runs along two sides of the perimeter of our deck in the backyard. We ended up with a sweetpea hedge by the time August rolled around. I harvested fragrant bouquets every few days and filled the house with their gorgeous smell. They flourished like mad and I was sad to pull them out in the fall. I made a few sketches of them and took some photos with the intent to put them to canvas, but as I looked through my reference photos I was struck by the difficulty of the task I lay out for myself. So I put it aside and worked on many other things.

Spring rolls around again and naturally we wanted an encore of the sweetpea spectacle of the previous summer, so we planted them by the deck again, again they flourished like mad and became a fragrant, tangled hedge around our deck, and again I was inspired to paint a picture of them, and again I was struggling with where to start on that.

Sweetpeas are a rather shapeless flower. Their foliage is a mess of leaves and a maze of thick stems weaving themselves carelessly between the leaves and whatever it is they happen to be climbing up. Their fragrance to me is the most defining thing about them, besides their delicate curly-cue like tendrils that wrap themselves around things and hold on for dear life. How the heck do you paint that? How do you organize the wall of foliage and some nondescript flowers shapes into a painting?

I don't have the answer, but I did come up with a answer.

  sweetpeas,  mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $1010 + GST,  2018

sweetpeas, mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $1010 + GST, 2018

I guess this one really is half painting, half drawing. I kept the paper bits to the beefy stems and the flower petals to help those stand out a bit more from the wall of foliage that makes up the other 3/4 of the painting. The foliage at the base of the painting was drawn with acrylic ink. It's a pretty interesting answer to my question.

 

the garden piano

'The Secret Garden' was and is still one of my favorite stories. I'm still in love with the idea of happening upon a forgotten garden where you need a key to get in, a place safe from unwanted visitors or strangers. A special place for you and your thoughts or you and your closest friends, hidden away from the bustle and noise of the world. Somewhere you can slow down and listen to birds while you watch things grow. The studio is kind of like that, if I'm sensible and shut off the email and put the phone away so I can work uninterrupted. Our garden can be very much like that unless our neighbor's across the alley decide to give their jackhammer or tablesaw a thorough workout. For the most part though, our home here is a safe haven for us to dream, plant things, relax, tune everything else out and watch plants and ideas grow.

But visiting a real walled garden that can actually be locked up?! I'm not afraid to admit that at 37 years old, that kind of shit is still cool to me. Especially when said garden is owned by a friend. Last September the BD and I visited the Walled Garden at Mells in the small village of Mells in Somerset, England. I shared my sketches from that trip in a post here in my online journal, but I hadn't made any acrylic paintings from the garden yet. The garden has a little cafe in it and a wood fired pizza oven, indoor and outdoor seating, and a marvelous view from the terrace of a picturesque green space where some very curious cows like to spend as much time gawking at folks have tea as the folks having tea like to gawk at the cows. There are some grape vines for wine, and some apple trees for cider-making, and if you venture to the back of the garden through a very old archway shrouded by ivy, you will happen upon the garden piano which rests against the stone wall by the back entrance.

It was a working piano at some point, but it has lived outside in the elements for I don't know how long. When I last chatted with my friend about it, she said it is ready to fall apart at any moment. I'm sure some music lovers reading this might cringe at the thought of a lovely upright piano being left outside to be a side table for the odd potted plant, but what else do you do with these things when they don't work anymore and no one wants them? There are so many things we enjoyed about the Walled Garden at Mells, but that plant piano still stands out in my memory as one of the neatest things I've seen. And because it probably won't be there when I'm finally able to go back for another visit, I thought it would be good to capture it on canvas, so someone else with a secret love for the reclusive and romantic notions of a private garden with such an odd and interesting treasure tucked in a corner might also enjoy it.

You just never know who is reading stuff like this and what they might be really looking for, right?

  the garden piano,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $250 + GST,  2018

the garden piano, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $250 + GST, 2018

arid

How quickly I've forgotten the cool temperatures of last week as I type this out on the couch in front of the fake breeze provided by our little oscillating fan. It's hot and dry outside and in. My jeans are folded up and being purposefully avoided in their drawer. I'm constantly sticky. Ah, summer.

FML.

I don't mind these conditions if I impose them on myself voluntarily. Like when we were camping near Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan a few weeks ago and decided to go for a hike in the sand dunes. That particular hike was very hot and dry, and also really beautiful. There was so much interesting vegetation along the path leading to the head of the dune; migrating aspen forest, alpine like ground cover, and cactus!

16C961DA-622D-47F6-998A-3BD36BFECE24.JPG

So of course, I decided to make some drawings from memory of these gorgeous, flowering little pointy gems.

  prickly pear I,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in)The, $80 + GST,  2018

prickly pear I, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in)The, $80 + GST, 2018

  prickly pear II,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST,  2018

prickly pear II, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST, 2018

The sand dunes (or dune, rather) was pretty spectacular. There were small islands of trees and foliage dotting the head and the incline leading up to the head of the dune. The dune itself was heavily ringed with foliage; the edges of a slowly dying aspen forest and the fresh growth of small prairie shrubs and bunch grasses. The sand was soft and fine and got into everything as sand does.

  the sandy path leading to the edge of the active dune.

the sandy path leading to the edge of the active dune.

  making my way up the 'path' to the head of the dune. this photo does not show clearly how steep the sandy climb actually was.

making my way up the 'path' to the head of the dune. this photo does not show clearly how steep the sandy climb actually was.

I had brought my sketchbook with me and made some drawings in it while we were there. The shapes, colors and textures of this area were firmly stuck in my mind a week or so later when I was manning my tented space at the Whyte Avenue Artwalk, so I busied myself trying to capture these things from memory. The textures in the sand made by the wind were especially mesmerizing, thus the many repetitive lines in the dune drawings.

  sand dune I,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST,  2018

sand dune I, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST, 2018

  sand dune II,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST,  2018

sand dune II, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST, 2018

At one point during our visit the clouds mirrored the textures in the sand perfectly. I haven't made that drawing yet, but I will. I'm definitely not done with this sand dune as subject matter, there are just some other projects I need to turn my attention to first. Until then, I thought I would share my impressions so far. It seemed especially fitting in this heat. Life imitating art and all that, right?

Stay cool and hydrated, friends.

These drawings are unframed and ship easily. Shipping is $6 on these as they can be sent as an oversized letter. 

iris

We came across her like anyone would when you move to a new street in a new town in a new-to-you part of the province; unannounced. She just showed up one morning in her smart green jacket with the sleek lines, her small finger tips reaching up toward the warm spring sunshine in our backyard. She is a quiet visitor. Not much of an eater but a fairly heavy drinker. She listens patiently to my tuneless humming while I work around her. She doesn't get shy when I break out my paints and paper and stare at her intently, trying to capture the delicate features of her face. She just stands quietly in the middle of the garden, the birds gleaning edible treasures under her delicate skirts, the bees hovering around her beautiful, pale face. Then as quickly (or seemingly) as she showed up, she disappears leaving behind her lovely green jacket. She's very trusting to leave such a lovely frock for me to care for until she comes back next spring. She doesn't seem the least bit concerned I'm going to wreck it or lose it. Kind of like leaving a post-it note on a door or mirror that says 'be right back'. Her visits are too short, but highly anticipated now. It's always nice to see iris in the garden.

  yellow iris,  mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), $1575 + GST,  2018

yellow iris, mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), $1575 + GST, 2018

I know I said I wasn't sharing any new work until Whyte Avenue Artwalk next month, but then the large painting of the umbrellas hanging over the shopping street in Bath sold, so I am bringing this painting to fill the now empty wall at Under The High Wheel in Edmonton this weekend. I snipped the last of the spent blooms from our yellow iris this morning. It was kind of sad, but their glorious memory lives on.

Until her next visit...

 

the art of memory

Memory is such a tricky thing. Take a place, for example. I moved from Red Deer to Edmonton back in 2009. The Red Deer I remember growing up and living in is very different from the Red Deer that it is now. Its grown and changed and so have I. If I were to compare my memory of Red Deer with, say, someone who was born in the 50's and grew up there, it would be different again. Maybe they had a good or bad experience living there. Maybe it was a transition period in their lives, so they feel kind of neutral about it. I went to high school with loads of people who couldn't wait to get the heck out of town and live somewhere more interesting, only to move back years later because they decided it was a nice place to raise a family, or it was familiar to them after being away in foreign places for so long, or a variety of other reasons. They've remembered it differently or reconciled their feelings about it to their memories or made the decision to move back based on external factors like a job or family.

Memory fluctuates. It isn't static. It can be selective either by choice or conditioning of some sort. You can lose memories or regain them. Sometimes they creep up on us in our sleep or when we are going about daily tasks. Every once in a while in a grocery store I get a waft of a certain candy, I'm not sure which and for a brief moment I'm transported back to this very distinct memory I have as a small child and a hallway apartment and my Knight Rider car that I could sit in and move about our space with my feet. Certain songs can come on if I have my Itunes library on shuffle and suddenly I am lying in bed in the middle of a thunderstorm at a drama camp, chatting with my roommate and watching the storm from our bedroom window.

Most of my work is about memories. I take a lot of photos when I am out and about, conscious that these are things I may paint or draw one day. All of my photos and paintings from Japan are now memories. The BD bought some incense sticks at one of the many shrines we visited there, and when I sit on the couch in the morning with my dogs, wrapped up in the beautiful red silk kimono I purchased on that trip, I can see with my mind's eye the large brass basin filled with sand with tiny tendrils of smoke curling from it from all the incense offerings that visitors made.

Then there are the commissions I get. The request to paint other people's memories. Sometimes the photos I receive when I take on a commission are accompanied with a long back story, to help give me context for the painting I'm creating. Sometimes there is little explanation. I'm good with either. At the end of the day, I rely on the visual reference provided for me. I wasn't there. I didn't know that dog, or visit that country, or know that person. Even if I had been there, I might have remembered it differently. It's such a tricky thing, memory.

I try not to get too stuck on these kinds of questions or the backstories. I try to let my focus be more immediate, more physical. How that line intersects with this line, getting the lighting right, or maybe making the colors a bit more interesting for the painting. This is not to say I don't appreciate the thought and emotion put into the explanations that come with some of the photos, but at the end of the day, memory is kind of like water: it fills the space in the shape and size provided for it, can easily change shape and color depending on the mood of the 'viewer' and is never looked upon in the same way by one person, let alone an audience comprised of multiple witnesses.

Even so, beautiful images can still be cultivated if you try. I made these watercolor illustrations back in May based off the childhood photos that the client sent me. I was flooded with all sorts of similar memories of my own as I worked on these; autumns spent playing in the leaves with my cousins in the front yard of my Grandma's house, or summer days on a blanket, lying on my stomach reading a book for most of the day, or the footprints I left in the cement pad right in front of the back steps of my grandparents house when we helped build their brick patio! Me in pigtails and little shorts operating (or trying to!) a rake that was twice my height at the time.

  untitled,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 9x12(in),  2018

untitled, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 9x12(in), 2018

  untitled,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 9x12(in),  2018

untitled, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 9x12(in), 2018

There are some stories you don't need to be privy to in order to have the joy and lightness of certain memories shine through your work, whether they are your memories or not. That's what I love about these two illustrations. You can feel the warmth, joy and nostalgia radiating through. Like it did. As it should.

a garden full of inspiration

Well, it's the month before Whyte Avenue Artwalk, so now of course most everything I am working on in the studio is being put aside for Artwalk. The subject matter I'm working on these days is all over the map; little landscapes, continuing the series from our trip to Japan, and our garden, of course.

  orange poppies,  mixed media on canvas. 20x20(in),  SOLD,   2018

orange poppies, mixed media on canvas. 20x20(in), SOLD, 2018

I painted this from a photo I took of a large clump of wild orange poppies growing on the corner of our front flower bed. It was fun to read the comments a few folks left under the photo on Instagram how their grandmother's had them in their garden and seeing my photo brought back all sorts of pleasant memories. I snapped a few more photos last night in the garden while the BD was busy pulling out an old shrub stump to make room for the blueberry bushes he bought. Just when I think that I'm done with painting and drawing flowers, fresh blooms arrive or the light hits something just so and I'm scrambling to capture it on my phone so I can paint it later. I photographed our pale yellow irises and our purple-and-white ones. I'm eagerly awaiting the showy blooms of the yellow-and-purple ones that live just beneath the bird bath. Then of course, there are the damn peonies! Some mornings I linger in the garden a long time, just looking at all of the new growth, watching the birds flit about and studying the lines of the foliage and the shadows that migrate with the daily arc of the sun. I confess, I have not been getting into the studio as early as I would like these days, because I'm so distracted by our garden. Initially the photo I took and used as the reference for this painting was for the mural I intend to spray paint on our garage door. I still intend to paint it on the garage door, but I put it on canvas as a warm-up for the mural. That and painting poppies is just good fun!

On July 5th (the day before Artwalk begins) I will post the full 'catalogue' of what I am bringing with me to Artwalk in a journal post here. I've a sneaking suspicion there will be a few more paintings from our garden, maybe even a few oil sketches. I picked up a few more colors of oil paint last week and they haven't been opened yet! Oh good, another distraction! Just what I needed!

from west to east

I remember the first time I visited the maritimes in Canada. Getting off the plane I could feel the distance I had just traveled.

I am on the other side of the country. I am the furthest away from home that I've ever been!

The east coat had so many different things that the small city where I grew up did not. The ocean, for one. Boats on blocks in yards instead of vehicles on blocks. The houses and buildings in the older areas were very different and usually painted bright colors. The houses were butted up to the sidewalks, instead of having sprawling front yards to separate dwelling areas from the streets. It was older too, with a richly documented history. I remember taking a walk through Fredericton with a friend I was visiting and stopping to gawk at the date on an old grave stone. Sometime in the 1600's, maybe 1634? I can't recall the exact date but that was old compared to the old gravestones and historical buildings in Alberta adorned with historical placards that give the date when these things were built or people died. My first trip to the maritimes was 2007 and I've tried my hardest to go back at least once a year for a visit.

I love the prairies. I grew up here, and now living in a small town where the Alberta/ Saskatchewan border is much closer to us than Edmonton, I've enjoyed exploring the area and around here and making more little sojourns into Saskatchewan and seeing what natural beauty it has to offer. But I am fascinated by the sea and lives lived by the seaside. I can't imagine getting into a boat to row (or motor) across a bay to go visit a friend for coffee or go to work. Or to wake up and see the sea from your house, or be close enough to walk or bike to it, or smell salt air wafting into your bedroom window. I hope we experience that kind of living one day.

For now we are very content where we are, and making almost yearly pilgrimages to the east coast is still a treat. Being able to capture these moments on canvas, even more so.

I created a series of three paintings about Peggy's Cove that are on their way to Details Fine Art Gallery in Charlottetown, PEI this week. They encompass most of my favorite visuals from the maritimes. I wish I could make this delivery in person, but September will come around soon enough.

  overcast day, peggy's cove, NS  ,  mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $1010 + GST,  2018

overcast day, peggy's cove, NS, mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $1010 + GST, 2018

  buoys and colorful rope, peggy's cove, NS,  mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in), $700 + GST,  2018

buoys and colorful rope, peggy's cove, NS, mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in), $700 + GST, 2018

  old boat with buildings, peggy's cove, NS,  mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $1010 + GST,  2018

old boat with buildings, peggy's cove, NS, mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $1010 + GST, 2018

I do love being by the seaside, especially in Atlantic Canada. Only 96 days until we are again!

lac la biche sketches

The BD and I are making a point of getting to know our area of the province a bit better, so we decided that our first camping trip of the season was going to be somewhere we'd never been; Lac La Biche. The drive there was very pretty, lots of rolling hills with gracefully curving lines etched into the stubble of last year's harvest. Sometimes the lines or sections of color would intersect and make the hills look like they were blanketed in a layer of earth-tone plaid. We noticed more pine in the forests up that way, and groves of slender young aspen. And lakes! I'd no idea there were so many lakes there, not to mention that the Sir Wintston Churchill Provincial Park was on an island in the midst of Lac La Biche. That park had everything! Forest paths to wander, secluded and not-so-secluded bits of beach to enjoy, canoe rentals, showers, and amphitheater for interpretive programs. Oh, and really, really good ice cream at the registration office.

I brought along my oil sketching supplies and broke them out periodically during our time there. One needs something to do between bouts of exploring, eating, paddling, napping and cribbage games! Our camp site was surrounded by dense forest so there was plenty to sketch without having to lug my kit too far.

  northern forest I , oil on masonite, 9x12(in),  SOLD,   2018

northern forest I, oil on masonite, 9x12(in), SOLD, 2018

  northern forest II,  oil on masonite, 9x12(in),  SOLD,   2018

northern forest II, oil on masonite, 9x12(in), SOLD, 2018

There was also lots to see and hear at night in our campsite. The birds were making quite a racket late into the evening, and would begin again as soon as the sun came up. One wren in particular decided that 2am was a good time to belt out his mating song, and since I had to pee anyhow I figured I should get up out of the tent and appreciate his efforts properly. The moon was so bright behind the curtain of tall spruce and the effect of the light through the trees and on the clouds hovering around it was stunning. No, I did not break out the paints and sketch this in dark. I took a photo of the scene with my phone and painted it in the morning after a good night's sleep, coffee and an egg and bacon sandwich, obviously. I'm not that hardcore.

Yet.

  moonshine,  oil on masonite, 9x12(in),  SOLD ,  2018

moonshine, oil on masonite, 9x12(in), SOLD, 2018

I would have liked to have spent more time sketching by the lake, but the bugs were dreadful and I'm not one for basking in the heat for hours on end, so I made use of a calm evening and a public deck by the small beach where canoes were launched. The light play on the water and the shore across the lake were quite pretty. The cloud of sand flies hovering over me while I painted, not so much. But it's all part of the outdoor sketching experience. I should probably get some netting to put over my hat for my face to reduce my bug inhalations. This sketch surprisingly contains ZERO bugs.

  the view across lac la biche on a may evening,  oil on masonite, 9x12(in), $150 + GST,  2018

the view across lac la biche on a may evening, oil on masonite, 9x12(in), $150 + GST, 2018

Then more sketching at the campsite because dammit, I just love painting pictures of trees!

  northern forest III,  oil on masonite, 9x12(in),  SOLD  ,  2018

northern forest III, oil on masonite, 9x12(in), SOLD , 2018

I started a few drawings on paper, but those aren't finished yet and I am adding more to that collection in the next few days. It was a surprisingly productive sketching trip, especially for the first sketch trip of the season. I'm very excited to lug my paints around on the other adventures we have planned in the next few months. Hooray for camping and plein air painting season!

spring, finally

Maybe I titled that too soon. It's currently raining outside, washing away the layers of grit and snow mold from the bare lawns of our small town. It smells wonderful! Meanwhile, over in England, spring has been happening for a few weeks now. Lucky jerks. In anticipation of spring finally arriving here and in celebration of spring over there, I made two illustrations from photos my friend Sam sent me of the Walled Garden in Mells.

  crocus in the garden,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in),  SOLD ,  2018

crocus in the garden, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), SOLD, 2018

  the pond,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in),  SOLD ,  2018

the pond, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), SOLD, 2018

japan paintings

It takes a bit of time to process a trip. I find that I reach a saturation point where I can't really take anymore in, I'm tired of living out of a bag, and I look forward to getting back into my normal daily routine. It's a weird balance between being present, dealing with traveling fatigue and preparing to pick up where you left off before the trip. Then of course you get home and immediately the experience you just had while away seems distant. Did I even go on a trip? Did that really happen? Then comes the odd stress of what do I paint about this experience first?

I went with my gut for that last question. I thought about the things we had seen and experienced in Japan that stuck out to me the most:

-the color orange. So many of the shrines and temples were painted this bright happy color which also happens to be one of my favorite colors of paint (cadmium red light).

-the water features in all the gardens we saw. This wondrous green/grey when the sky is overcast, with deeper blue/green reflections when the water was still, which it was unless it was raining.

-the peacefulness of the gardens. We didn't visit many remote places. We spent all of our time in cities, but surprisingly the gardens and shrines were very quiet.

-the patterns of the traditional kimonos! And the colors! Everything goes; stripes with flowers, red with electric blue, yellow with pink, solids and stripes. The attention to detail was astonishing as well. Some of the hair pieces I saw in shops or adorning the lovely hairstyles of women we passed were stunning. So intricate! I did a lot of gawking, and most likely open-mouthed.

-the shapes of the trees. Every tree in a city is heavily manicured, be it the ones lining a busy street in the middle of downtown, or growing along the wall of the Imperial Palace (Tokyo or Kyoto). I had so many moments of oh! THAT'S why they draw or paint trees to look like that because they actually do! I am usually late to the party.

-the old architecture. I saw not one but three five story pagodas! In real life! I did not think that would happen because Japan was not on our travel radar. Foolish us! We even got to stay in a ryokan-style hostel. Our room had tatami mats on the floor and a little private deck that overlooked the river in Ito. The room was very light and spacious and the building was over 100 years old.

-the lanterns hanging outside of bars and restaurants along the narrow streets in the old neighborhoods. I couldn't read what was on them, but it was an easy way to spot a place to eat or drink when out wandering, especially at night.

-the blossoms! There were so many advertisements in train stations, on trains and on and inside buses showing the lovely places you could go all around Japan and participate in 'hanami' or blossom viewing. We were too early this visit for the real spectacle though.

Of course there are many other things that I loved about Japan, but these were the visual cues that immediately come to mind when I think back about our trip. So here are the paintings I've done so far:

  nonbei yokocho or drunkard's alley, tokyo, japan,  mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in),  SOLD  ,  2018

nonbei yokocho or drunkard's alley, tokyo, japan, mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), SOLD , 2018

Drunkard's alley; just off the main path by the infamous Shibuya crossing. We walked from a literal sea of people and glaring light to a rather dark, very narrow set of streets lined with shops and small 'izakaja' or bars, which had only 6-10 seats inside. Very small and very intimate. And overhead in the narrow streets between the little pubs hung so many beautiful red, white and yellow lanterns advertising what was available inside.

  cherry blossoms, tokyo, japan,  mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in),  SOLD,   2018

cherry blossoms, tokyo, japan, mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), SOLD, 2018

We were definitely in the shoulder season of blossoming activity. The winter blossoms (plum) were just petering out and the spring blossoms (cherry) were just making their debut. The fragrance from the few flowering trees we did get to enjoy was so lovely. I can't imagine what the air in Japan smells like when all the spring blossoms are out in full force! It was a most delicate and refreshing fragrance, not sickly and overpowering like, say a cluster of hyacinths up close can be.

  a calming reflection in the pond at the golden temple, kyoto, japan,  mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in),  SOLD ,  2018

a calming reflection in the pond at the golden temple, kyoto, japan, mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), SOLD, 2018

Water features! I fully intend on painting a piece (maybe two) with the golden temple in them, but this glassy pond with it's little islands of perfectly manicured tree and perfect reflection was a must paint NOW. I chided myself for how many photos I took of tree reflections in various ponds, but now that I'm home I wish I had take more of them for painting and drawing purposes. Oh well.

  an evening in gion, kyoto, japan,  mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in),  SOLD,   2018

an evening in gion, kyoto, japan, mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), SOLD, 2018

Speaking of open-mouthed gawking, seeing men and women enjoy an evening out wearing traditional dress was quite a highlight for me during our time in Kyoto. I snapped as many unobtrusive photos as I could. I even contemplated renting a kimono so I could get all gussied up for an evening, but upon observing the footwear and the narrowness of the kimono and how the women had to walk in them, I decided against this as I have a hard enough time keeping up with the long, fast stride of the BD at the best of times, and I would definitely loose him in a crowd wearing that somewhat confining get up. Instead, I settled for gawking and picture-taking.

  being koi,  mixed media on canvas, 8x8(in),  SOLD,   2018

being koi, mixed media on canvas, 8x8(in), SOLD, 2018

Surprise! Another water feature. This time with koi. Many of the ponds in gardens or near shrines had koi in them. If you stood by the embankment long enough, they would gather near you in a quiet, flowing group, peeking their noses just out of the surface of the water, opening and closing their large mouths slowly, requesting food. The majority of the koi I saw were darker in color, almost a reddish-purple. We even spotted koi from our little deck in Ito in the Matsu river. There were some gold ones, but the majority were darker.

  cherry blossoms II, kyoto, japan,  mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in),  SOLD,   2018

cherry blossoms II, kyoto, japan, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), SOLD, 2018

More cherry blossoms. I can't get enough of their color and shape. This piece is from a photo taken on the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto. There were in a small courtyard, only two of them, beside one of the buildings in the main part of the grounds just after the gardens. One pink flowering tree and one pale yellow. I'm planning a triptych of cherry blossoms, to mimic some of the painted screens I saw inside the palace through the windows. That and I just really want to paint a larger piece about cherry blossoms because why not?

This isn't it for paintings from our trip, just what I've gotten done so far. I hope to have some ready for Artwalk in Edmonton in July, and perhaps a few for my installation at the Vermilion Public Library in September. Early next week these pieces will be making their way down to Bluerock Gallery in Black Diamond, Alberta, just in case you happen to be in the area and would like to see them in person.

 

performance art

As a kid growing up in Red Deer, I loved being on stage. I took dance as a little kid. In elementary school I was part of the choir. In junior high I started taking drama as an option and then became involved with Treehouse Youth Theater. I was in 'Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves' and 'L'il Abner', and both productions of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' that Red Deer College put on, once in 1993 and again in 1995. I was in numerous plays in High School and became interested in the backstage stuff; sound, lighting, sets and props. In college I registered for the Technical Theater program at Red Deer College. I saw a few of Andrew Lloyd Webber's touring productions; The Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (with Donny Osmond as Joseph), Jesus Christ Superstar (with freakin' Ted Neeley from the 1974 rock-opera movie!) and Evita.

The thing I grew to really love and hate about being involved in theater was the time involved. You spent months working on a production, either rehearsing for it or building it. It was all you thought about. You didn't get to do things with your other friends, and sometimes you'd practice the same things over and over. If you weren't performing, the hours could be late, or long, or both. And once the show was up, depending on your roll backstage, there could be long stretches of time where you were merely waiting for your cue to hand someone something, or move something. What I loved about theater was the single minded focus on the project. It brought this group of random people together, with various skills and talents, and we were all working on the same thing. And opening night!! The butterflies in your stomach! Never mind closing night and the tears or the constant 'this is the last time we do this (scene, song, cue, dance, what-have-you)'. Then the production would be over, struck and you tried to fill the time in with other things that were...a little less interesting and all consuming.

It was a fucking roller coaster of emotions, energy and effort. But what a rush!

A friend of the BD's he met through work happens to be a Ukranian dancer and invited us to Malanka or Ukranian New Year at the Regional Center here in Vermilion back in January. It was a fun night of music, dance, visiting and carbs...uh.....delicious Ukranian food. I was excited to go and see our friend dance especially since I had never seen any Ukranian dancing. I thought it might provide some interesting opportunities for sketching and photographing. It did! Watching the some of the adult dancers backstage helping get the little kids ready for their performances brought back so many wonderful memories of all the times I was backstage waiting for my turn to perform. The excitement of getting costumes and having to put on make-up. The tension of waiting for the right cue in the music before you start a piece of choreography, and the stress of missing that cue by juuuuuust a second or two. And the weird dichotomy of giving it your all for the audience while simultaneously pretending there is no audience so you don't get freaked out and trip over your own feet.

I tried to convey those emotions in these pieces about the dancers. There are three distinct vantage points. The dance, backstage preparation, and waiting to go onstage to perform. Three of my most distinct memories of performing.

  the dance,  mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), $570 + GST,  2018

the dance, mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), $570 + GST, 2018

  getting ready to perform,  mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), $570 + GST,  2018

getting ready to perform, mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), $570 + GST, 2018

  watching the other dancers,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $250 + GST,  2018

watching the other dancers, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $250 + GST, 2018

The movement of the dancers in the first piece is my favorite. Dancing with other people who know the same routine is so much fun. The casualness of the second piece as the woman adjusts the garment on the young man brings me right back to time spent in dressing rooms, putting on heavy make up and the clothing that made your character or performance really come alive...it's that funny limbo space; still yourself but nearly transformed for the performance. Then the third piece! I loved the bright yellow skirts and green vests this group of girls was wearing, and also how closely they watched the adult group perform. Most of the girls were either doing something with their hands or pacing a few steps. You have to do something with all that nervous energy before you go on stage!

My goal in this little series was to convey how these moments felt instead of just concentrating on how they looked. I think I was successful in both.

notes & sketches from japan

I made only one goal on this trip. OK, more like three goals for this trip; to take more photos, write more notes and make more sketches than on any previous trip.

Done.

Here they are. This post is probably best viewed on a laptop screen so you can actually read the notes. Happy perusing!

DSC05619.jpg
DSC05620.jpg
DSC05621.jpg
DSC05623.jpg
DSC05624.jpg
DSC05625.jpg
DSC05627.jpg
DSC05628.jpg
DSC05629.jpg
DSC05630.jpg
DSC05631.jpg
DSC05632.jpg
DSC05633.jpg
DSC05634.jpg
DSC05635.jpg
DSC05636.jpg
DSC05637.jpg
DSC05638.jpg
DSC05639.jpg
DSC05640.jpg
DSC05641.jpg
DSC05642.jpg

postcards from japan (kind of?)

Sending mail is one of my favorite things, especially postcards. It feels like a more thoughtful act. You need to find a place to sit, put down your things, dig out a pen and something to write on and then write a note to that person. Then you need to find a post office or mail box so you can send what you wrote. It takes a bit more effort than just firing off a text. Of course, you could be a real keener and bring blank watercolor postcards with you that you can draw and paint on yourself, flip it over, write the note and then send it. I happen to be that keener.

Only, that didn't happen on this trip. The sending part, I mean. I ran out of time to both color in the postcards and find a post office to send them through. It happens. I got too distracted filling the pages of my sketchbook, exploring shrines and eating tasty things on sticks with sticks! I did draw these postcards on location, but then I brought them home, colored them in and sent them off from the post office here in Vermilion.

DSC05454.JPG
DSC05456.JPG

The postcard shown above is the one we ended up giving to a sweet old man who the BD attempted to chat with while I was drawing at the Kiyosumi Botanical Garden on our last morning in Tokyo. I say attempted to chat with because the man didn't speak any English and the BD and I don't speak any Japanese. I shared this story already on my Instagram feed, but didn't have a photo of the postcard I gave him. My phone was full of photos and I had run out of film for my Instax camera as well, but fortunately the BD had his camera and was able to snap a quick photo of the drawing for my archive.

DSC05607.JPG
DSC05608.jpg
DSC05609.jpg
DSC05610.jpg
DSC05611.jpg
DSC05612.jpg
DSC05613.jpg
DSC05614.jpg

The recipients of these don't know who they are yet, as I just sent these babies out on Friday, so they are just arriving at some of their destinations now. That is also part of the fun; sending random shit that you drew to your friends to make checking for mail a little more interesting.

a visit to portland (but not the one you're thinking of)

The BD and I aren't very good trip planners I confess. It's not that we miss flights or can't find places to stay; we're quite good at that part. What I mean is, we are not very good at planning out all the things we hope to experience and see when we are traveling. We're more like the let's-go-and-see-what-happens kind of travelers. Since we have to adhere to more of a schedule in normal working life, why the hell do we want to continue that when we're out exploring a new place?

Thus, when we were in England last fall and visiting Weymouth-by-the-sea, we decided to take the bus to the Isle of Portland and see what that was like. Plus, we thought it would funny to say 'hey, we finally made it to Portland!' only to then explain we didn't mean the hipster mecca in Oregon. Well, we thought it was funny.

What it actually was, was fucking breathtaking. The bus ride to the isle was quite lovely. We drove along a causeway with the backside of Weymouth on our left and the glittering Atlantic lapping onto Chesil Beach on our right. Then the road meandered up and through the town, and I do mean up. It seemed as though most of the road that went through the town was angled at around 45 degrees! We were told by a polite local man who overheard us wondering aloud where we should get off to get to the lighthouse, to get off in one of the small residential subdivisions at the top of the island and from there we could walk along the road past some of the open quarries to Portland Bill, the lighthouse. Several weather systems had passed over us throughout the day. It would be sunny and lightly breezy for a few hours, and then dark and raining sideways for a few minutes, and then back to sunny and lightly breezy for a few hours. It was all glorious sun on the bus ride there and for the first half hour of our walk from the town along a bit of the coastline. We followed a path between two fenced fields to one of the quarries. Then the weather turned so we put away our cameras and drawing things, donned the rain gear and continued on the path to the lighthouse. The weather got darker and wetter and windier and seemed like it was determined to stay so. We came across a smattering of small holiday cabins which were all closed up for the season, but the wind was such that even standing close to the wall of one of the cabins kept the rain and wind off. As quickly as the weather system came, it left, leaving clear skies and a warmer wind to dry our wet pants, which it did rather quickly. When we sat down to have tea by the lighthouse we were dry.

vsco-photo-2-6.jpg
vsco-photo-1-6.jpg
vsco-photo-1-5.jpg
vsco-photo-2-5.jpg
vsco-photo-3-4.jpg
vsco-photo-3-5.jpg

Our day in Portland is exactly what we hoped it would be; a day spent on a rugged coast being tussled by the salty wind. I only got part way through one drawing on that day, as it was too windy for drawing. I got thinking about the sea quite a bit the past few weeks, probably because we'll be flying over one next week, so I scrolled through the photos on my phone from our time in Portland until I came across these and painted this piece from one of the photos I took.

 the view from portland bill, isle of portland, U.K., mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $1010 + GST,  2018

the view from portland bill, isle of portland, U.K., mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $1010 + GST, 2018

The color of the water there was really surprising. After the storm passed it went from a steely-blue to this lovely, deep teal color. I love watching the water crash onto the rock below and seeing it swell and heave like something breathing. It kind of reminds me of the hills around Vermilion when the crops have gained a few inches and the wind ripples through them; it's a very similar motion when you think about it. It has a similar sound too, albeit the ocean can be much louder. I can almost feel the rhythm of the Atlantic that day when I look at this painting. That was a very good day.

not neutral (the badlands in 6 parts)

There are some things I shy away from painting, because I can't really envision how I would go about it; things that I love to photograph but how the hell would I paint that? It's that annoying thing about getting too comfortable with one's craft, that you just know certain subject matter are going to turn out well, so why bother with the others? There are definitely some subjects I like to paint more than others, but those preferences change over time. It's not that I want to be awesome at painting all of the things, but I do like to challenge myself and fiddle about with new subjects. The badlands near Drumheller happens to be the very subject in this case.

I think the main reason I've shied away from painting or drawing pictures of the badlands were the colors. So many neutrals. Some of the accounts on Instagram that annoy me the most are ones where all the bloody photos are comprised of shit that is 90% neutral in tone. I mean come on!! There are so many amazing colors out there! I think that's the thing I love most about the east coast, Yellowknife and Mexico. They are not afraid to have colorful exteriors on their buildings, and it seems the unwritten rule is: the louder, the better. The interior of our little house is starting to emulate that. Our living room is a wondrous blue and our kitchen is a startling bright teal color. I love using bright colors when I paint and dress. I'm not opposed to neutral color schemes, but it's very tiring (to me) to seem them consistently flaunted in fashionable business and home interiors. Oh look, another grey and white kitchen. How nice! The tile in your cafe is white with pale wood accents and pastel colored dishes. So fresh! Ah, this spring the beige cardigans are a little more pink than the ones in the fall. What a nice change!  For a culture that complains loudly about winter and it's coldness and lack of color, we sure do like to tote these wintry, neutral color schemes. So here is this fantastic landscape in the middle of the Alberta prairie with all these interesting shapes and textures and a very neutral palette.

Pass. I need more snap and color.

But then I figured why the hell not try my hand at painting it? I had some nice photos I took while passing through Drumheller last summer. I enjoyed sitting by the hoodoos and sketching for a few hours. Don't knock it 'til you try it, right? On my first attempt, I didn't paint the hoodoos. I painted a nice picture of the side of a hill with all it's strata exposed and some dead trees in the foreground. (Wow, that's a description that would sell a painting, but that is what the painting is about. See below.)

  the badlands , mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in),  SOLD ,  2017

the badlands, mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in), SOLD, 2017

Then after Christmas I was flipping through some of my sketchbooks looking for particular instax photos I had a mind to put to canvas, and I came across some photos of the hoodoos and decided to try again.

  the badlands II , mixed media on canvas, 14x14(in),  SOLD ,  2018

the badlands II, mixed media on canvas, 14x14(in), SOLD, 2018

  the badlands III  ,  mixed media on canvas, 14x14(in),  SOLD ,  2017

the badlands III, mixed media on canvas, 14x14(in), SOLD, 2017

The color scheme was neutralish. But those shapes and textures of the formations! So here are three more versions:

  the badlands IV,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $250 + GST,  2018

the badlands IV, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $250 + GST, 2018

This next one is a particular favorite because the hoodoos are front and center but not super easy to spot because of the color and texture of the hill serving as a backdrop to them.

  the badlands V,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $250 + GST,  2018

the badlands V, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $250 + GST, 2018

The sky in this painting is lovely. It was a hot, dry and breezy summer afternoon that day. I can almost feel that wind in my hair when I look at it.

  the badlands VI,  mixed media on canvas, 14x14(in), $345 + GST,  2018

the badlands VI, mixed media on canvas, 14x14(in), $345 + GST, 2018

As you can see I'm not that great with a very neutral palette. I made the shadows a lovely purplish blue to help offset all the hues of beige and orangy-browns in these pieces, and then added a few flecks of cadmium red light to different areas just because I can.

Same simple reason I make an effort to try subject matter I am not familiar or comfortable with; because I can.

some wild thing

I know it's only February but I feel like things are waking up a bit. The days are getting noticeably longer, we're filling in our calendar for the year of where we are going. Time off is being booked, accommodations being researched. Spring is still a few weeks away in these parts, but the hunkering down bit is coming to an end. I'm starting to feel a bit restless and a little overwhelmed at the growing list of to-do's for this year. Typical February.

This morning however, I had a little project for a friend that I was working on that reminded me that this feeling of restlessness creeping in is normal for this time of year. My own inner wild thing is starting to wake up and is itching to get out and explore and see new places.

vsco-photo-3-3.jpg
vsco-photo-2-4.jpg
vsco-photo-1-4.jpg

I love the photo my friend took of her son that this illustration is based off of. She took a series of photos with him as he wandered around dressed like Max, exploring things in the park where they were walking. I was very excited when she asked me to illustrate this for her. What a fantastic thing for him to have when he's older; proof that he was once a small wild thing for those mundane days when he needs reminding. Making this drawing was a good reminder for me too, to nurture my inner wild thing for the coming season of new adventures in travel, art making and teaching. That season begins for us in 21 days, with our trip to Japan.

Until then, it's time to work and behave so I don't get sent to bed without any supper.