One: Bridges

bridges, neomosaic, blog, cocreation, forgiveness
Some chasms are deep

Bridges come in all sizes. Some span chasms carved by rivers. Others are temporary over puddles. The most important ones are built with love.

From embankments to puddles

bridges, neomosaic, blog, cocreation, forgiveness,
Snowy path

Two weeks can make an enormous difference. Just two weeks ago the path to my studio curved its way through embankments of snow. On Friday water blocked my path. As I gazed into the depth of liquid, I estimated the distance. Definitely too deep for my shoes. I chose the bank of snow to my left and proceeded to the studio door. Unbeknown to me, someone was watching through the kitchen window.

Building bridges

bridges, neomosaic, blog, cocreation, forgiveness
More water than snow

My oldest daughter is often over at our place. She is a talented young woman with bright ideas and very good with her hands. Watching me struggle through the snow in my less than adequate attire, she donned her boots and looked for a solution to the problem while I worked in the comfort of my haven. Taking some slats from old oak barrels destined for the firepit she formed two temporary bridges. Apparently, my path needs rebuilding this summer.

Relationships require bridges

bridges, neomosaic, blog, cocreation, forgiveness
Two bridges

Relationships often require bridges as well. My daughter excels in this arena too. She has found ways to repair several relationships in our family. Generously donating her time and her skills she forges new possibilities in what seem like impossible situations. Everything she builds is built with love.

Forgiveness is key

One of the key elements to building heart bridges is forgiveness. Once we make the decision to forgive, the way is clear to proceed with patience, kindness and perseverance. Holding onto grudges or demanding punitive justice only blocks any attempt at restoration. We all make mistakes. And we may take offense when none is intended, depending on our mood of the day.

Space and time

Another key element is space. Not everyone is open to repair work. Allowing the other space to mature or mellow offers a gift of time. In some cases, it takes a lifetime. Patience is required. Occasional olive branches test the waters. Love makes bridges possible. 

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One: Diversity

diversity, mixed media, semi-abstract, drips and drops, co-creation
Working with diversity

Diversity in abundance is the hallmark of this planet, this universe. Yet, as a human race, we tend to want uniformity. We want to reduce the wanton abandon around us to something we can control and understand. We have no faith in anything but ourselves and our human capacities.

Diversity is key

As an artist I struggle with this tendency, placing trees all the same size and equidistant from each other. Without the wanton abandon of drips and drops moving among the traces of texture, my work would look very ordered and way less interesting. Diversity in shape and colour is much easier to manage when I allow myself to co-create.

Part of daily routine

Part of my daily routine is scripture reading. I use a form of Lectio Divina which is a method of meditation. Reading the passages, I seek the message for me today and I try to apply it to my world. Recently, I reread  the Nunc Dimittis for the millionth time, and I burst into tears.

Now , Master, you are letting your servant go in peace as you promised, for my eyes have seen the salvation which you have made ready in the sight of the nations: a light of revelation to the gentiles and glory for your people Israel. Luke 2:29-32 New Jerusalem Bible

Christianity has twisted Christ’s teachings into a meritology club promising salvation for those who belong. The blinding light of revelation has been reduced to an ember, darkened by our misunderstanding and unwillingness to welcome the other. And the glory of Israel is lost in genocide, reducing diversity to something we can control and understand. How utterly sad.

A benevolent universe

 If we could embrace the teaching of incarnation, God becoming man and thus declaring all creation good, we would begin to see the connectedness, the interdependence of everyone and everything in all of the universe. In fact, the more we reduce diversity, the less likely we will survive. Co-creation is so much healthier. It does demand our trust and willingness to be open.

Science unblocking the way

diversity, drips and drops, chaos, mixed media, semi-abstract
Looking good

We live in exciting times. Change is threatening to many yet there is nothing to fear. Science delving into the mysteries of the universe has come to the same conclusion: diversity is essential. In the meantime, I will keep painting in what looks like chaos. I will endeavour to love well and treat the diversity of creation with respect and patience. All is well and life is good.

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One: Map

map, mixed media, semi-abstract, landscape
A mess

This week I thought I would share a bit of my process. I follow a map. It may or may not be exact as far as location is concerned. Portraits of places is not my goal. Rather it is the ambiance of the sacred space, the soul of creation.

Beginning with a mess

I begin with a mess. From the reference photo I decide where the darks and lights go. Using a poppy red watercolour pencil, I may mark in significant points, usually any man-made structure. The rest is decided as I go along freehand.

map, mixed media, semi-abstract, landscape, figures

Choosing shapes

Carefully following the drip lines and texture marks I select some shapes to represent trees. Although the driplines and the texture determine the shape of the forms I paint, I choose which ones to fill in and which ones to leave blank. I may also tweak the shape within the form so as to create more natural looking growth.

map, landscape, semi-abstract, mixed media, figures
Legs are blue

Reintroducing figures

Another decision lately is to reintroduce some figures into the landscape. They are useful for directing the eye around the piece as well as creating focal points and counter focal points. The illusion of a person is all that is required so the shapes remain quite abstract. In this piece, although it is difficult to see, the legs are blue in contrast to the green in the background.

Where to go on the map?

Deciding to complete the upper part of the painting I move across the canvas adding some more man-made walls, people and the vegetation before throwing in the distant hills.

map, semi-abstract, mixed media, figures, landscape
Water flows around rocks

Not a portrait

Now for the waterfall. At this point I depart from the photo paying more attention to the texture and the play of paint on the surface. I find if I let go of preconceived ideas, like it has to look like Helen Hunt Falls in Colorado, I end up with a much more satisfying result. The essential is a varied line and groupings of lines. The next decision will be which colour to use for the rock formations, blue or orange.

map, semi-abstract, mixed media, landscape, figures
Setting the foreground

Dealing with the foreground

Before moving further down the canvas, I look at the map and decide to develop the fence posts. These structures are in the foreground and they block the view of what lays behind. Perspective is important here although the fence is not perfectly aligned. Backing up I find the pencil lines are not quite correct. The handy water bottle and a bit of paper towel soon removes any unwanted residue as I attempt a more believable version.

Map turns corners

map, semi-abstract, mixed media, landscape, figures
Rock or vegetation?

The map continues around the edges and I have some more decisions to make. Is this rock or vegetation? I choose vegetation although I have not determined exactly what it will look like or how far it will extend. The map is not precise. Contemplating which direction to go, where and what to develop, all keeps this artist in very happy territory. I so enjoy the random.

Events

Do check out the VASA Winter Member Show. It runs to 2 February 2019. Enjoy your week.

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Different Strokes: New Work

New Work, semi-abstract, mixed media, landscape, commission

Just after Christmas is the best time for me to produce an abundance of new work. This year has been exceptionally busy with commissions and unexpected projects, the spice of my life.

Celebration

Last night culminated the recent request for a special gift for a special person, Claudette Tardif. Commissions always offer a particular challenge in communication. This same challenge shows up when we talk to our doctors, lawyers or mechanics. The expertise of one may not be translated into language both participants can understand. While I endeavour to interpret what my client may be communicating, sometimes I get it all wrong. Hence a preliminary sketch is in order.

Clarifying commissions

Thankfully what I presented via internet made the proposition very clear and lead me to produce something satisfactory to most. Part of this project, however, involved pleasing myself. Having tried to incorporate several elements into the image, I came to a point where the spirit of the piece showed signs of dying. Either I continued to develop the painting in hopes of resolving the problem or I took out the gesso to begin again.

Beginning again

As much as I wished to continue I decided to take the surest route. After all, I had a week left to complete. Bringing everything back to the second coat (gesso), I relished the fresh start as I applied the five or six preliminary layers before the real work begins.

Deadline met

Finally, having resolved most of the issues on the front of the painting, I turned my attention to the back. Since I do not usually finish the back of my paintings, I took more time to apply the quotes of the various declarations chosen as a keepsake. The edge of the cradled board sported many coloured stains as happens with layering and splashing paint. I decided spruce it up with black gesso and give it a little protection with some varnish at the end.

New work and new accolades

New work always brings new challenges. Happily all is well when deadlines are met and the customer is satisfied.

Other shows

Do not forget to check out my new work showing at Lotus Art Gallery and at VASA this month.

Have a great week.

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Different Strokes: Happy Easter

Happy Easter, blog, cocreation, landscape, mixed media, negative space, semi-abstract

As I gaze outside my window, I find it hard to believe Easter Sunday has arrived. Yet I know it to be true. Winter clings tenaciously as the temperature dips to unusual depths. Snow continues to accumulate or melt, the crocuses are keeping their heads low and the frost on the windows blocks the view.

Happy Easter, blog, cocreation, landscape, mixed media, negative space, semi-abstract
Lucious negative spaces

Winter simplifies

Recently one of my clients asked me why I like winter. A lot of my paintings depict this season. I do like winter. I like all four seasons. Winter holds a special attraction for me because the snow does a lot of the work for me. Snow simplifies the landscape into various sized shapes peeking out behind trees and rocks. The patterns are exciting.

Happy Easter, blog, cocreation, landscape, mixed media, negative space, semi-abstract
Lovely spaces and shapes

Excitement in the contrast

Much as in winter, the melting spring snow leaves behind lovely designs of contrasting lights and dark, sidewalks against mud puddles for example. After a rain, darkened tree trunks framing distant hills excite my muse. The excitement shows up in fall as well with the intensity of backlit glowing gold pierced by runs of iron bent. So breathtaking.

Happy Easter, blog, cocreation, landscape, mixed media, negative space, semi-abstract
Rainy seasons

Summer melts into fall

Then summer offers warmth and green with dabs of every colour. Simplify, simplify; the beauty overwhelms in its abundance of verdure. The most important is…? What can be left out? How can I improve it? Shapes of shadows, meadows and clutches of wood assemble to form a chorus extolling the Creator if I do not get in the way.

Happy Easter, blog, cocreation, landscape, mixed media, negative space, semi-abstract
Contrast is the key

Easter set in spring

Soon the sun will melt the snow with the promise of spring realized. Planting vegetables and flowers come with warm earth and more promises. Perhaps this is why spring was chosen for Easter celebrations. Celebration is not limited to the Christian church however. Many other faiths tap into the newly moving sap to raise up their voices in thanksgiving. Life is good.

VASA show

Somehow my submission got lost in the shuffle so my invitations will not go out on time. VASA (25 Sir Winston Churchill Ave, St. Albert) is hosting their annual Spring Member Show of which I will be a part. Beautiful paintings will adorn the walls from April 3rd to April 28th with the opening reception taking place on April 5th. See you on Thursday!

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Different Strokes: Illustration

dragon, illustration, linocut, semi-abstract, mixed media

Illustration has filled the minutes or hours, as the case may be, while I wait for paint to dry. My inspiration came from an article in The Painters’ Keys concerning the original illustrations for Ursula Kroeber’s Earthsea series. Ruth Robbins did a wonderful collection of wood cuts for first edition. Since I am creating my own first edition, I thought lino cuts would be appropriate.

dragon, illustration, linocut, semi-abstract, mixed media
The Year of the Boat

Miracles

As for my book, I have no intention of publishing other than a few copies for my children and grandchildren. Each copy will have monoprints for the cover and for every chapter. I have completed the design for the five chapters. The book cover awaits the whisperings of my muse. The content concerns the miracles, the major miracles, I have experienced during my life time.

dragon, illustration, linocut, semi-abstract, mixed media
The gifts

Haste makes waste

Most of the time I am busy moving between one painting and another so there is little time in the waiting department. It comes in clumps, the waiting. Recently I finished four paintings, two of which will be shipped to Vancouver this week. While I completed the edges and the last details, I prepared four other canvas with the first few coats. The waiting time grew as I completed each task. Unfortunately, in my haste to begin the new, l made a boo-boo.

dragon, illustration, linocut, semi-abstract, mixed media
A Light in the Darkness

A big house brush

My process has four major messy stages before I turn my attention to developing the negative spaces into what resembles a landscape. About to delve into the mystery of creativity, I realized I had omitted the third step. Oops. Laughing I considered the options. I could continue, leaving out the metallic undercurrent. It would become a problem later. Sighing, I picked up my big house brush and dipped into my gesso mixture. Back to stage two.

dragon, illustration, linocut, semi-abstract, mixed media
The Black Knight

Illustration fills waiting time

Stealing some extra minutes in my studio during the evening I managed to prepare overnight all four panels for the fourth, throwing paint part. Throwing paint leaves puddles of pigment. Surrounded by dripping drops I turned my attention to cutting lino. I am thankful I do not have the time to finish this task all at once. The tendons in my right arm warn me of impending seizure if I carry on too long.

dragon, illustration, linocut, semi-abstract, mixed media
Using tracing paper

A legacy for grandchildren

So, the task of preparing each illustration is coming to a close. The first prints will show me if I will need to adjust my cuts. I am quite certain they will not be as precise as Robbin’s, the knife has slipped once or twice. I have learned not to continue when I am tired. Another illustration, this time using a felt pen, is near at hand. My grandchildren enjoy their Christmas colouring books all about family legends. Life is good.

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Different Strokes: Stopping

stopping, semi-abstract, mixed media, landscape

In many of the articles other artists have written I notice the point at which one decides to stop and put the brush down is always a challenge. Stopping is particularly difficult when one is a perfectionist.

Perfection is overrated

As the years pass my obsession to be perfect diminishes with practice. Yes, practice. Being the centre of the universe where everything depends on me is definitely overrated. Allowing the spirit to flow through me is much less tiring. Semi-abstraction demands a certain detachment from the work in order to see what is happening there in the midst of the accidental. Consequently, I need a way to detach.

Fresh eyes see clearly

One of the best ways is to set aside a work in a place where I can glance at it as I go by. If, over a week or so, my eyes see nothing to distract from the whole, I can pronounce the painting finished. Sometimes the setting aside requires removal from my sight for a period of time, so my eyes adjust to a new vision. This second method of detachment is useful for images causing me discomfort from unidentified sources. Fresh eyes hone in on mistakes much more easily.

Tweaking

So often, what I thought may be complete is in need of tweaking. The danger in changing one thing leads to changes in another and one loses the beauty one is trying to enhance. Much of my work captures the essential in the chance encounter of pigments or in the puddles within the texture. Leaving it alone retains the magic.

stopping, mixed media, semi-abstract, flow,
Almost done

Stopping now or later?

Stopping is always a challenge. Just one more thing… Occasionally, the one more thing leads to a restart all together. Perhaps someday I will learn when to stop without the struggle of “one more thing”. In the meantime, one more stroke calls to me in this piece. We will see if it is one too many! Life is so good.

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Different Strokes: Le Francothon

Le Francothon, fundraiser, landscape, mixed media, semi-abstract

Fundraisers show up in all kinds of forms. Le Francothon follows the formula for “thons” including music, a prison with a guard, a cash bar, hype and a new addition: a local artist.

Le Francothon, fundraiser, landscape, semi-abstract, mixed media
Wonderful music

Centre of attention

The organisers installed a separate stage for me thinking I would be working at an easel. I asked for a table because puddling requires a horizontal position. A table cloth hid the boxes under the table and provided a place for my coat and boots. Personally, I was just hoping my calculations were correct and I would meet the three-hour deadline.

 

Le Francothon, fundraiser, landscape, semi-abstract, mixed media
Essential background workings

Started early

Arriving well before the first interview (there were three) I could not contain myself. Carefully stepping over the long strings of wires and avoiding anything that looked like buttons and switches, I found a sink and added some water to my favorite container. The water jug is now all covered with drips and smudges in various colours and shades of gray. The former peanut butter jar is just the right size for my brushes and now has a water mark in the bottom indicating the ideal height for the water, over the brush and mid-way up the feral.

Easily distracted

I opened the sealed dish with the almost white mix of gesso, gel and complementary colours. Moving slowly. I installed the stream dancing over the image. Oops! Grabbing the spray bottle, I wet a paper towel and removed the offending strokes dissecting one of the rocks… Whipping out the small mirror I had brought I checked the result over my shoulder. Yes, that works.

Concentration

At this point I ignored the photo used to inspire me. The task at hand included choosing the shapes between the trails of colour and the texture appropriate to the image imagined.

Francothon photographers

One of the random photographers for the Francothon stopped by to inspect my progress. He shared his own experience with abstract painting. It is not as easy as it looks. We laughed together. Looking up I noticed some wine glasses floating around and decided I needed a break. I had been standing in one spot for about two hours. I moved to step off the platform and wobbled a little. Too long with too little movement.

Le Francothon, fundraiser, landscape, semi-abstract, mixed media
Almost done

Even had time for some edges

In the end, I managed to complete the painting as well as two of the four edges before Le Francothon concluded. We celebrated the huge success of raising more than $3K. My painting? Well, it belongs to Radio-Canada/CBC and, last I heard, they will put it on semi-permanent display at Cité Francophone with a plaque commemorating the event. For the moment I have it in my studio where the other two edges and the varnish await.

Other opportunities

Devenir’s installation “Devenir/Becoming” is still on display until 25 November at CAVA 9103 95th Ave Edmonton. So worth seeing.

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One: Recovery

recovery, blog, studio, retreat, semi-abstract, mixed media, painting, landscape

Recovery is slow. Last Monday marked my return following an intense six days in the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. I must be getting older. I do not bounce back very quickly after such an event. Perhaps it has something to do with the other three commitments this weekend as well. In any case, I am pooped.

Fires still burning

A heavy haze obliterated any view of the mountains until well past Cockrane. Some fifty kilometers from Camrose we could make out the outlines of distant peaks. The taste of smoke permeated each breath. Being in the mountains without being able to really see them felt oppressive. The fires are still burning. Billboards posted fire bans at every opportunity. Sprinklers soothed the parched grass before the entrance to the hotel.

Establishing my presence

Presented with keys to my room and my studio for the week I proceeded to unload the car and establish my presence. The photo at the top shows the view from my window one morning just before departure. The wind had cleared much of the smoke, enough for a respectable view.

recovery, art, painting, landscape, mixed media, semi-abstract, blog
So much room.

Awesome space

Magnificent space opened before me as I gazed into the studio with northern light and vaulted ceilings. Awesome. The four tables and little side bench would do nicely. Probably would not need the chair and the stool… Little did I know!

recovery, blog, art, studio, landscape, semi-abstract, mixed media
Ready to work.

No time to redo

What followed were three marathon days of creative exploration, ten hours per day, standing on cement and throwing paint around. I definitely used the chair… On the fourth day, my body betrayed me. Muscles seized and I sought out the gym. Although I had been swimming, my problems required a more focused, intentional exercise. The routine re-established function for the day as I tackled my four messterpieces. I had learned a lot about what I did not like. We were installing the exhibition that night. Each piece required adjustment. No time remained to redo.

Sunday celebrations

Sunday, we toured, enjoyed presentations in playwriting, poetry, music and visual art. Time to celebrate before heading home. I took the slow route on Monday through Jasper gathering photos for the next round of paintings.

Recovery is slow

I have noticed a decided lack of production after intense periods of productivity. Recovery is slow. I am tired. The most efficient way to deal with this phenomenon is to be patient, rest and allow the muse a vacation… The energy returns as long as I do not attend too many weddings, birthdays, retreats and trips to Vegas. Perhaps October will see some new activity. Life is good.

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Different Strokes: Puddling

puddling, shapes, mixed media, semi-abstract, landscape, blog

Shapes are the basis of the puddling process. Puddling involves fluid paint filling a particular area, usually caught between texture and drip lines. In the previous article about my process, I was mostly working with a gesso/gel mixture that can be applied to the vertical surface. Stepping back is easy when one is at an easel.

puddling, shapes, mixed media, semi-abstract, landscape, blog
The mirror helps see the shapes

shapes, puddling, semi-abstract, mixed media, landscape, blog
Gazing into the mirrors.

Puddling

Puddling, on the other hand, requires a horizontal surface so the paint does not run. In this position, I use a mirror to get the distance I need to see the larger shapes. Often the shapes are determined by texture as well as the area to be covered.

shapes, puddling, semi-abstract, mixed media, landscape, blog
Selecting the mix

shapes, puddling, semi-abstract, mixed media, landscapes, blog
Spice bottles are best.

shapes, puddling, semi-abstract, mixed media, landscape, blog
The ingredients

shapes, puddling, semi-abstract, mixed media, landscape, blog
Ready to go.

Mixing liquid grays

Selecting the gray blend appropriate to the prepared canvas, I create jars of liquid colour using a mix of gel mediums, water and pigment. I manipulate the value of the puddle with the brush. The deeper the puddle, the darker the result. It is important to have a variety of values within the shape graduating from darker to lighter.

shapes, puddling, semi-abstract, mixed media, landscape, blog
In between the white shapes

shapes, puddling, semi-abstract, mixed media, landscape, blog
Nice and shiny.

Time consuming

Puddling occupies a lot of time and I often find myself in a gazing position, contemplating the next move.

shapes, puddling, semi-abstract, mixed media, landscape, blog
Now for some resist

Puddling enhanced

Once the puddling shapes are complete I use a different gray combo to unite the whole by brushing a thin layer over top of the mosaic structure. Using some resist colours I vary the water in tones of green, violet or blue.

shapes, puddling, semi-abstract, mixed media, landscape, blog
Last bit of painting

Edges again

The last bit in the painting process is the development of edges to continue the image around each corner of the canvas. Next time I will cover the many finishing touches each image undertakes before completion.

Off to Banff

In the meantime, I am off to Banff for Entr’ARTS. This unique program offers a week-long program with a mentor at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity. I will be among musicians, poets, dancers and film makers as well as visual artists. In the few days we have I will be exploring the use of writing within the context of painting and producing four works from different approaches. So fun. Life is so good.

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