the old couple

I’m thinking about the sound the sea makes as it laps over the pebbly beaches of the west coast; it sounds a bit like laughter and a bit like clapping to me. Like the water is tickling the pebbles as it washes over them, or has told them a good joke in passing. I’m also thinking about the sounds the ravens make in the deep forests that line these beaches. Their vocabulary is quite expansive and interesting. The chortling noises they make are what really gets me. Those more gentle sounds that seem like they are trying to get some word rolled around their tongue and can’t quite manage, so it comes out more music than word. I’m also thinking about how calm the sea can be in the inlets and straits, and how readily it mirrors the mood of the sky above it. That’s a couple that has been married a long time, the sea and the sky. They know things about each other that no one else does. There is a pleasant smugness a couple can exude with knowledge like that. There is also a melancholy, deep and abiding that can come with that long relationship. One part can get stormy and soon the other part will get caught up in it, but when one begins to calm, the calmness begins seeping into the other.

Then there are the bones between the two. The piles of old trees and bits of structure smoothed by the physical emotions between the two and bleached by them until they are a lovely silvery-lavender color. I like wandering beaches like these. I like seeing evidence of the stormier moods of the sea and sky creating a wall of driftwood like they are trying to keep the trees from creeping into the water. I also enjoy seeing evidence of human involvement; tidy little fire pits and lean-tos built to protect visitors from the rapidly changing moods of the sea and sky. When my friend Robin and I visited Bere Point last fall, we caught the old couple on a good day.

bere point, sointula bc II,  mixed media on canvas, 20” x 20”, $800 + GST,  2019

bere point, sointula bc II, mixed media on canvas, 20” x 20”, $800 + GST, 2019

Sometimes I find it difficult to draw and paint in places like these. I’d rather look, explore, take photos and soak it in. On occasion when I have been by the sea, I simply could not sketch because the couple were fighting or just being raucous. Too much wind and wet is not conducive for sketching outside.

Today is the BD and my 7th wedding anniversary. This painting reminds me of candid photos taken of us. A little bit of calm, a lot of color and some remnants of attitude.

this is not the sea

As much fun as it can be to revisit your own memories and youthful haunts, I also enjoy witnessing those moments when your friend’s do it. Last summer we took a trip to Saskatchewan with some friends. One of them grew up in the area near Elbow Saskatchewan, and was recounting tales of past shenanigans and showing us some of the spots where him and his buddies used to hang out. Six of us (four adults and two kids) piled into his van one morning and we took a drive to the Quapelle Damn on Lake Diefenbaker. Then he spied an unmarked truck trail that ran parallel to the lake through some tall grass and trees. We took this ‘road’ just to see where it lead, trespassing be damned! The trail soon petered out into even taller grass so he spied an open patch he could turn the vehicle around in, but then someone had to pee so we got out of the vehicle to see if there was anything to see. We found a well worn foot path through the grass and down the dune to a very lovely beach below.

It was a very blustery July day; the kind where a toque and mitts and a slightly warmer layer would have been a welcome addition to help buffet the wind. Once you went down the path the dune acted as a windbreak, so it was pleasant to sit in it’s shadow with your back to it, toes in the sand, facing the tumultuous waters of Lake Diefenbaker. The sun tried to shine but there were too many clouds darting across its path to bring any warmth to the day. I wandered away from the group and took a walk back towards the dam we crossed in the vehicle, combing the beach for any interesting tidbits the wind might have helped the lake give up. I found some interesting stones, some coral-shaped formations made out of the sand and scattered all over the beach, some spent shotgun shells, feathers, but not much else. When I wandered as far as I wanted and turned around to head back, I was greeted with this sight:

this is not the sea; it’s lake diefenbaker, SK,  mixed media on canvas, 20” x 20”, $800 + GST,  2019

this is not the sea; it’s lake diefenbaker, SK, mixed media on canvas, 20” x 20”, $800 + GST, 2019

Between the low ceiling of clouds overhead threatening rain at any moment, the wind making white-caps on the long stretch of pale beach, I was really confused for a moment as to where I was. There were gulls fighting the gale above us, shouting into the wind with their efforts. You could hear the water lapping loudly on the shore to the right and to the left tall grasses were dancing frantically in the wind on top of the dune. It could have been the ocean! For a moment I was transported back to Weymouth in England, or West Mabou Beach in Cape Breton. The only detail missing was the tang of salt in the air! It was incredible. The previous day Jason and I spent basking in the sun on the opposite side of the lake. The water was calm and fairly warm, the sky mostly clear and you knew were definitely in the prairies. You could hear the native birds and the bugs and all the summery prairie sounds, but on this day the roar of the wind and water drowned all other sound out. If you closed your eyes, you’d swear you were seaside, not in southwestern Saskatchewan.

In the middle left of the painting are two figures off in the distance. That is Jason (the Bearded Dude or BD) and our friend Steve, who grew up in the area and was showing us around.

This is not the sea, but for a few mesmerizing moments that day, it really could’ve been!


an obstructed view of the bow river valley from the top of sulphur moutain

Sometimes I like to revisit places or experiences from my childhood to see if they are still as cool (or lame) as I remembered them. Memory is a funny, rather fluid thing. Two people can share the same memory and tell a very different story from it. Maybe you were going through a tough time when you visited a zoo for the first time, and that tainted the experience somehow. On the flip side, perhaps a restaurant you tried out on a first date was really great… but that was because you were excited about the date, and it turns out the restaurant wasn’t that amazing afterall. Or in this case, I think I amalgamated a few childhood memories into one memory. I thought I remembered visiting Banff one time as a kid and riding up the gondola to see what was at the top. Perhaps this did happen but a lot changes in thirty-some odd years. Anyhow I remembered the view and overall experience being alright but not too interesting. I remembered a small building at the top with a cafeteria in it and a bit of a walking trail outside. I also remember it being windy and a lot colder than it was when we got out of the car. When we were down in Calgary visiting friends a few weeks ago, we decided to spend a day in the mountains and take a ride on the gondola to revisit our memories, of it. The experience totally exceeded how I remembered it as a kid. The ride was really quiet and smooth and very steep. Myself and our friend Jordan are not a huge fan of heights, so when Jay threatened to make the thing start swinging we both glared at him a bit, and maybe held onto to the seats with white knuckles. The building at the top was very fancy, with lots of neat exhibits about the park and the history of the gondola. There were two restaurants and a gift shop and a patio at the top with a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view of the surrounding peaks and valleys. There was also an extensive wooden walk way which took you along the ridge over to Sanson’s Peak where the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station is located. The views were amazing and of course I took a lot of pictures. This was definitely not what I remembered. It was way cooler! I just put the finishing touches on a painting I made from my favorite photo from that little adventure.

photo.jpg

I really like this photo for a few reasons. One: I like how the trees are slightly obstructing the sprawling view of the valley below. It reminds me of how many trees flanked the boardwalk, making it a slightly forested, mountain top walk. Two: I love the pink flagging tape tied to the trees and the hint of yellow from some random bit of equipment on the bottom left just peeking out of the snow. Also, the ‘no feeding the mountain sheep’ sign on the right. And three: I like to share what I saw with viewers of my work. In instances like this it’s so easy to get a great photo because of where you are. How can you possibly take a bad photo on top of a mountain, barring pocket photos and getting your thumb in the way of your lens in each shot and not noticing right away for some reason? And it’s going to be the exact same photo everyone else has. In this photo I really like how the behind the trees there is this empty space pulling your eye toward the horizon and down into the valley; like you are about to fly off the mountain top. It helps provide a little more interest to the context of the photo and the painting I think.

So here’s the painting and then a few detail shots of it so you can see some of the papers I used.

an obstructed view of the bow river valley from the top of sulphur mountain, banff national park   mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), $1800 + GST,  2019

an obstructed view of the bow river valley from the top of sulphur mountain, banff national park

mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), $1800 + GST, 2019

Attachment-3.jpeg
sulphurmountain3.jpeg
sulphurmountain2.jpeg

I’ve been using some new blues in my palette the last few months. The sky is a mix of cerulean blue chromium + phthalo blue + titanium white. It kind of glows like neon which is very fitting for the sky in this painting as it was a very clear day and the sky’s color was almost other-worldly to my eyes.

There was a fair bit of construction going on around the main building at the top. I think these particular trees were flagged for eventual cutting. I liked the pop of bright pink they provided in an otherwise very blue-and-white landscape. That is also why I left in the sign on the right and bit of yellow peeking out of the snow on the bottom left of the painting. I find these details both endearing and interesting and I don’t think it takes away from the view, it just adds a little something else. This is how I saw that particular view on that particular day, and this is how I would like to remember it. I figured I’d title it as I saw it as well, because not every painting needs a poetic title. Sometimes just the facts will do.

where i have been

With the lengthening daylight hours of March I can feel my wanderlust starting to rub the sleep from it’s eyes and begin gently moving it’s limbs in anticipation of adventures to come. I’ve really enjoyed this winter, even with the polar vortex which made the average temperature of February around -30 out here. I’ve read a lot of books, napped a lot and done yoga every day. I’ve tried new recipes and skipped in the basement because it was too cold to do so outside. I’ve added new paint colors and mixes to my palette. I’ve also been going through photos of my past travels; distant and more recent, near and far. It’s funny how you forget how much you can do in the course of a year or two. Sometimes I wonder why I took certain photos, and other times I scroll past something and it grabs my attention and demands to be put onto canvas now.


As the summer approaches and I continue preparing for a two solo shows (check the ‘show & tell’ section of this site for details) and Whyte Ave Artwalk, I’m letting the whims of memory take me where they will. I’m not very good at sticking with themes for shows as I inevitably get distracted with new ideas, so rather than pressure myself unnecessarily to stick to some rigid subject format, I’m just going with the flow. In January I was revisiting my trip to Vancouver Island in the fall, and now I’m currently stuck in the snowy woods and mountain vistas of Banff National Park. I added the two latest interpretations of our snowy mountain adventure from last month to my Etsy shop this evening.

louise creek, lake louise, banff national park,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST,  2019

louise creek, lake louise, banff national park, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST, 2019

backlit, johnston canyon, banff national park,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST,  2019

backlit, johnston canyon, banff national park, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST, 2019

As I write this I have 3 new outlines of Japan committed to canvas in the studio as a way to celebrate the one year anniversary of that amazing adventure. I’m thinking about their gardens. And the gardens I saw in Scotland. And MY garden. And the Yukon, as we head back there in July. Oh, and then Ontario because I get to go on a month long road trip there and back to paint and sketch in September with my friend Robin. See what I mean? The only thread that all these places have in common is where I have been.

So, here we go…

the vermilion postcard project

Growing up, it used to annoy me when my friends would grumble about Red Deer. A lot of them couldn’t wait to leave, because anywhere must be cooler or more fun than the place where you grew up. That place was so not cool. I liked Red Deer. What was wrong with it? Eventually I ended up moving away, but it wasn’t because I was desperate to leave. Then I was in Edmonton, life happened, I met my husband and we were making plans to move again, this time across the country. We planned for a long while to move out to the east coast and put down roots in Nova Scotia. We were tired of Edmonton. Tired of the traffic and the pace. We loved the slower pace of the east coast, loved the proximity to the ocean and that it was very different from Edmonton. We fell into the same trap that kids I went to high school had fallen into. “Anywhere is cooler than here.”

Our move to the east coast didn’t pan out for a lot of reasons. We chatted about it and decided we still wanted to leave Edmonton for something a little smaller, a little slower in pace and less expensive. The BD had already been working in Vermilion for a few years, so we decided to see what our options were for renting or buying in Vermilion. It fit all our criteria; a smaller community, close enough to visit friends and family in Edmonton, quieter and cheaper. We found a house we liked and could afford and so we put an offer on it and voila! We were moving east, though not as far east as we originally thought.

In May we’ll have lived here for two years already. Time flies!

I spend a lot of time walking around town with the dogs. We have our favorite routes and I’ve made a few paintings of some of my favorite houses and other spots around town. But I got thinking that the really cool places in the world have postcards made of them, so you can send them to your friends and show them where you were or are, and how great it is. That thought inspired my Vermilion Postcard Project.

This is the first installment of 5 drawings in this series. It’s not about the history of Vermilion, although I would like to touch on that later. The drawings I have made are of places around town that I pass by almost daily, that have caught my eye and stuck in my brain. These are some of the physical places I really like in this small town. The original illustrations are available in my shop for purchase. I am getting them printed onto postcards and will be selling them in a pack of 5 in my Etsty shop once they arrive. If you live in or pass through Vermilion, you’ll also be able to purchase the postcards at The Red Brick which is a fabulous cafe and health food store on the main street.

ventura motel, vermilion AB,  mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST,  2019

ventura motel, vermilion AB, mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST, 2019

view of vermilion river from pare drive, vermilion AB,  mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST,  2019

view of vermilion river from pare drive, vermilion AB, mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST, 2019

shirley’s, vermilion AB,  mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST,  2019

shirley’s, vermilion AB, mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST, 2019

1950’s bungalow, vermilion AB,  mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST,  2019

1950’s bungalow, vermilion AB, mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST, 2019

the standard, vermilion AB,  mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST,  2019

the standard, vermilion AB, mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST, 2019

All the ‘cool’ places have postcards. I think Vermilion is cool, and soon there will be postcards to prove it!







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.