Category Archives: Art- Process

Rice Paper Birds

Sometimes a new piece of paper can suggest a new direction, or a new way of seeing things. Such is the case with a gift of the most delicate pale blue translucent paper my daughter Laurel brought me from Toronto. For a while I just admired it hanging in the window with other strips of translucent paper being hung over it for effect. Eventually, two new pieces took shape.

I love flocks of rice paper birds. Playing with such sheer papers encouraged me to focus more on the abstract shapes of birds and the spaces between them (and less on the individual birds).

The birds don’t alter space.
They reveal it. The sky
never fills with any
leftover flying. They leave
nothing to trace. It is our own
astonishment collects
in chill air. Be glad

(Li-Young Lee ‘Praise Them’)

Jocelyn Duchek

“I’d Rather be Painting” – Meet Jocelyn Duchek

fullsizeoutput_1d62I am a frequent driver of Highway 22, but it took me several trips to turn onto Main Street Esterhazy to check it out. Imagine my delight to spot an art gallery – Jocelyn’s Fine Art Gallery – on Main Street. A large, airy space with good light, Jocelyn’s gallery features her own art, art and pottery by local and guest artists, a place for art classes, and a selection of art materials. I soon made a point of stopping in at  Jocelyn’s Art Gallery every time I drove Highway 22. (For those who don’t believe that art can stimulate economic activity, I have now purchased items from at least 5 other Esterhazy businesses!) I enjoyed seeing the new art as it came in, and I was curious about the dynamic woman behind all of this – Jocelyn Duchek. It is no small thing to keep an art gallery going in a place the size of Esterhazy (pop 3000). I wanted to learn more about this vital, friendly woman who is also a gifted artist, teacher and entrepreneur.

As a small girl, Jocelyn Duchek loved to sketch. She was very young when her dad asked her to draw a  moose for a hunting buddy of his. Her dad gave his friend Jocelyn’s moose drawing (regretting that later) and Jocelyn remembers that he bragged about that moose picture for the remainder of his days. Both her parents supported her love of drawing but there were not many opportunities for her to learn more. She wanted to try painting but she had no idea where or how to begin. As a teen, she continued to draw a lot and attended Fort San Summer School for the Arts. It was a fabulous experience for her but there was no real instruction. “Be free, be loose,” she was told. Jocelyn felt lost and wanted more in the way of guidance.

By the time Jocelyn Duchek was 24, she was married with three young children and little time for art. But creativity will find its outlet. Jocelyn poured her energy into sewing (which was practical as well), into creating dough art,  crafting porcelain dolls, and working with ceramics. She spent 7 years helping with her sister’s leather business sewing mukluks and purses. Eventually, Jocelyn returned to school which led to a career working with children with disAbilities , coordinating a respite program for their families, and later, working with special needs students in the school system.  Jocelyn put her heart and soul into this work but was beginning to feel burned out and tired. After about 10 years of this work, Jocelyn became gravely ill  with ulcerative colitis and required  a number of surgeries. As she slowly  began to heal, she went back to work part time, feeling that while it was time for a change in her focus, she didn’t really know what to do next.

img_1444In 2004,  a friend invited her to come to art class with Ward Schell.  Jocelyn uncharacteristically said yes instantly.  Off she went. “It totally opened my eyes. I learned how to start a painting, I learned how do a painting, I learned how to make it look 3-D. I still have this first little grain elevator I painted. I show it to students now. That little grain elevator led to another painting, and another, and so on. I would finish a painting and go “Wow! Did I do that?”  I was so very excited about painting. I just could not stop talking about the painting process to everyone I met.”

By 2010, Jocelyn’s enthusiasm caught fire and soon people were asking her to teach painting.burst She gave up her job, did some renovating in her home and had a small gallery there as well as a place to teach. The first classes were in her former master bedroom. She found that learning to teach was the best possible education – she took classes, she learned about colour theory. She eventually began taking photos of her work step by step, so that she could show people her process. “I just get lost in the zone when I am painting, so until I did that I didn’t really know how to teach what I was doing.” There was a great hunger in Esterhazy for art classes – both for adults and children. Jocelyn’s home became too small and  she tried out 2 different locations before moving to her present gallery space in 2014. Throughout it all, her husband Ken was “incredibly supportive.”

Jocelyn Duchek

“Room to Breathe”, 30 x 40

Jocelyn Duchek

“New Life”, 24 x 24 by Jocelyn Duchek

Jocelyn Duchek

“A Life That is Good”, 16 x 20 by Jocelyn Duchek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of Jocelyn Duchek’s art is inspired by the boreal forest of Northern Saskatchewan. Each summer, she and husband Ken, along with friends and family camp at a number of lakes – Armet, Steeprock, Rocky. For Jocelyn, the northern forests are healing and rejuvenating places. “I don’t mind fishing,” says Jocelyn. “But I’d rather be painting!” The men would go fishing and many of the women would paint. She loves to paint abstracts as well using acrylics and  alcohol ink. She finds that the different mediums balance one another – the poured paint gives her a sense of freedom and looseness that complements her more representational work.

Jocelyn duchek

“Fluid Aura” by Jocelyn Duchek

“I just kept offering what I felt I needed and couldn’t find in Esterhazy, ” says Jocelyn. As well as wanting art classes, Jocelyn wanted a place to display her work. Early in her art career, she applied to a few art galleries and was rejected.  Part of her dream today is to offer a place for aspiring local artists to hold their first show. She offers them guidance, encouragement and know-how.

Jocelyn’s Art Gallery continues to evolve, to thrive and to grow. Recently, Jocelyn  had a vision that will not leave her alone. “I figure if it won’ t let me go, I better I act on it.” In the new year, she and Ken are going to create a “forest room” – a meditative place in the front of the gallery. When you enter this room, you will know you are somewhere special. She herself began meditating 5 years ago. “I have always been a  very busy type of person”, Jocelyn says. “Meditation has calmed me, has slowed me down a bit which I do find also helps inspire my creative side. It is catching on in Esterhazy. People are taking yoga and becoming more aware of the healing possibilities of art as well as meditation.” Jocelyn now has meditation cushions for sale, and will soon be adding Himilayan salt lamps and other like products. “You have to be inventive in a small town. You have to think about what is needed in the town and what will bring people in. It takes running classes, hosting events, selling supplies and other products. You can’t just sell art or you’d be out of business before you start.”

“I am doing what I love best,” says Jocelyn Duchek. “I have no doubt that creating art is 100% healing. For me, painting took me back to a place deep within me, that creative place that I had left far behind.” It is a great gift to all of us that Jocelyn reconnected with that long lost creative well within.buffalo-mural

Something about birds

What is it about birds? I love watching birds…. birds at the feeder, birds flying by, especially flocks of birds. On occasion, I try to paint the birds I see in a realistic way, but more often I create colourful birds of the imagination, birds from faraway tropics, birds with hairdos, eye rings…improbable birds. As far back I can remember, I have painted, drawn, sculpted, collaged and colored these fanciful birds.

Our spring has been unfolding slowly, with many false starts and sunny days that tease. Outside these past two weeks, we have had many gray and overcast days. Inside, I have been immersed in a world of colourful and wild birds in tangled gardens. It is as if another spring is blooming inside me! When I make a rice paper birds and arrange them between sheets of plexiglass or when I paint birds, It feels as if these birds reside inside in me, too many to count, and as they are created, they fly free in paint and ink, in collage papers. Why I love to paint fanciful birds, I do not know. They are a happy mystery to me. I feel as though I could create birds forever! Look below for my recent spring pieces followed by  an assortment of other birds in flight from years gone by.

" Spring Bursting Forth", watercolour and inks, 18" x 24"

” Spring Bursting Forth”, watercolour and inks, 18″ x 24″

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"Tree Blooming Birds", Rice paper Plexiglass Collage, 32" x 40"

“Tree Blooming Birds”, Rice paper Plexiglass Collage, 32″ x 40″

 

Commission

 

Definition:

An order for something, especially a work of art, to be produced specially:
Mozart at last received a commission to write an opera

My Definition:

A mission which is shared by 2 or more people, with one being the co-creator or maker and the others having creative imput. Sue at last received a commission to create a rice paper panel in consultation with those who commissioned it.

The mission:

To create a beautiful rice paper plexiglass panel for a bathroom window that would serve as a kind of “curtain” or blind so that people outdoors could not see in to the bathroom.

How we worked together:

We knew two things at the beginning – the size of the window (which suggested the size of the plexiglass panel) and that we wanted colourful rice paper birds to be a part of it. Because the window looks out to trees (bare branches in winter), we decided to create branches for the birds. The branches would be bare in winter while in spring they would be enlivened with the green foliage that could be seen through the clear parts of the plexiglass.

My Part:

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Creating a template for the branches

Tracing the template on to Brown Silk Ashiro Paper

Tracing the template on to Brown Silk Ashiro Paper

Trying the branches in the window

Trying the branches in the window

Trying simpler branches

Trying  a simpler branch

Rejecting the simpler branch

Rejecting the simpler branch

 

I taped the branch with a simple arrangement of birds to the cottage

I taped the branch with a simple arrangement of birds on the plexiglass. Here it is in its “destination window”.

Time to Consult:

I taped the branch and some birds to the plexiglass and brought a whole handful of extra rice paper birds. The couple I was working wanted more birds, especially at the bottom, and especially more birds with red on them to pick up the colour of the bathroom walls. We also hit a problem: you could see through the panel into the bathroom. We hoped that more birds clustered at the bottom would help solve this problem.

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I created more red birds and sent them mock ups of different arrangements of birds on the tree

I created more red birds and sent them mock ups of different arrangements of birds on the tree. This is #3.

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This is # 6, the version the couple chose.

The next part is the finnicky part. The branches and the birds need to be affixed to the plexiglass. I do this using “zots” – tiny glue spots. The design of the branches that overlaps with the bird is cut out so that the overall design is not too intricate and each birds colour shows well. A few birds, such as the red one, on the bottom left, are left with the branches criss crossing their colour. It takes a couple of hours  and a lot of patience for this stage.

Attaching the birds and branches to the plexi glass

Attaching the birds and branches to the plexi glass

Then the 2 panels of plexiglass are screwed together, fishing line is attached to the top screws so that the piece can be hung and it is ready for delivery. Because plexiglass panels shift in different lights and through different seasons, they need be lived with for a while to be truly appreciated.

Some of the challenges in creating rice paper collages in plexi glass are:

  • Can the two pieces of plexi glass be sealed so that there is no condensation in a bathroom? Someone has suggested using acetone and I am going to try this.
  • A plexi panel is like a see through shirt- not everything is hidden. I have used rice paper backgrounds but then you lose the beauty of seeing what is really beyond the window.We did cluster birds at the bottom, but this did not work as well as we had hoped.
  • Plexiglass is great stuff but it picks up dust and tiny bits of whatever – how to reduce its static qualities?

Each new art piece is an adventure for me. I welcome any knowledge or insights. To see more panels, check out http://poachedeggwoman.ca/galleries/rice-paper-glass-collages/

 

 

 

Water, Colour, Paper

Water

Colour

Paper

And  a brush. (But not necessarily!)

“Follow the brush,” writes Lynda Barry. “The paint travels down the brush and the brush travels across the paper. Once I noticed this I found I enjoyed watching the paint meet the paper. I liked watching it so much, I forgot I had a part in it!”

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Here are some photos from a recent Fearless watercolour PLAYshop sponsored by the Lumsden and District Arts Council. With thanks to all who made it possible and for the fearless participants, teachers each and everyone of them.

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A maple bug loved this play sheet

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paying with the "rigger" (brush

paying with the “rigger” (brush

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Fall Scraps of Sunlight

Having just spent two days playing with paper with others, one day being a collage PLAYshop at the Qu’Appelle Valley Centre for the Arts, and the second day taking place here at the farm (Scrap basket free for all), I can honestly say, I would love to spend a whole week like this. Except I might not still be married! My patient husband had to borrow a chair to sit down to eat lunch, his current reading material was hidden under a scrap basket and his usual paths had detours but he managed with good humour. It is all cleaned up now and I am still married.

Following are photos from the PLAYshop and scrap basket adventure. A few highlights first:

  • I liked that we had people from age 9 to over 70, grandmothers and granddaughters, mothers and daughters, aunties and nieces, good friends, people who had come before and people who gave it their first try.
  • Joanne brought a beautiful paper wasps nest, and this paper was used for many creations. See if you can spot them.
  • We visited but sometimes were so absorbed and other than music in the background all you could hear were so many pairs of scissors as they cut through paper.
  • It was November 7th and 8th and “the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all our senses .” (thanks Joni Mitchell). Who could believe this weather in November? The sun was so bright I was uanble to get a picture of Sunday morning’s scrap basket crew.
  • On Saturday, we got to pop in at the pop up market!!

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I have  three big scrap baskets, full of treasure. Today’s challenge was to just use what was in the scrap basket to create something beautiful.
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Joan's beautiful creation from saturday's PLAYshop. She came up to the farm Sunday and found just what she needed to complete her collage. see the next photo.

Joan’s beautiful creation from saturday’s PLAYshop. She came up to the farm Sunday and found just what she needed to complete her collage. see the next photo.

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In Praise of Play

The absorption of the simple act of cutting paper

The absorption of the simple act of cutting paper

I recently had someone ask me if my art PLAYshops were for adults. Most definitely, they are for adults. Sometimes they are also for all ages and at other times exclusively for children and youth. Most often I tell people that PLAYshops are like WORKshops, only we play instead of work. I offer PLAYshops in paper collage and watercolour painting, but the spirit of playful exploration is possible for so many endeavours. People do learn techniques at a PLAYshop but almost by accident  as they ask themselves “what if I tried this?” It strikes me as a sad commentary that “play” for adults is often the domain of adult only sexshops or professional football. The recent popularity of adult colouring books is one sign of how hungry we are for pure play in these busy and often serious times.

IMG_1512Here is what I notice about those who attend my art PLAYshops. Many of us learned in elementary school that there are one or two “artists” in the class and that that artist is not us! No wonder there is often initial concern about “getting it right”. Part of my job as a leader is the open up the space for experimentation, exploration, skylarking* and simple play. Once people get past “getting it right”,  and they usually do, I notice the great comfort that comes with the simple act of cutting with scissors, tearing paper with fingers or wielding a glue stick. The same is true of dipping a brush in a tray of pure colour, dipping it again in water and applying it to paper. Many of us have not enjoyed these simple activities since we were in school, or perhaps when we sat down to show a child how to cut or paint. It is as if by cutting or gluing, we are remembering something, some pleasure, that we long since forgot. We feel that pleasure deep in our bodies.

Although there is sometimes chatter as we create and experiment, there are also often periods IMG_1811of silence, when participants are so absorbed  and focused in what they are doing that they forget to drink their coffee or go to the bathroom or worry about when they will buy groceries. I love this feeling of a group of people being being wholly absorbed in what they are doing. I sense a sort of “hum” of contentment in the room.

I have just started taking an art class based on learning some very specific techniques. I feel excitement about trying out new things. What I noticed right away though, is how frequently those of us in the room criticize and put down our own work, even though we are there to learn something new. We can’t help ourselves. We are afraid to make mistakes. We take ourselves pretty seriously.

I understand this terror of creating visual art a little because I am terrified to dance in the same kind of way. I don’t seem to have natural rhythm, I trip over my feet, I try to take the lead. I need  to draw on this sense of play and fun when I hit the dance floor. Well, actually, first I need to get near a dance floor!!

Image 2Part of the appeal of the PLAYshops is the “play” part but another part of the pleasure is returning to work with our hands. We can get this same kind of tactile pleasure in a myriad of ways – carving wood, sewing by hand, kneading dough, painting a piece of furniture, raking leaves, polishing silver or leather. In an era when our fingers and thumbs are so busy sending messages via screens, we crave this ability to touch something real, something not virtual, something that we can transform and something that will transform us, even in the smallest of ways.

 

 

*skylark
n.
the common European lark, 1680s, from sky (n.) + lark (n.1). So called because it sings as it mounts toward the sky in flight.

v.
“to frolic or play,” 1809, originally nautical, in reference to “wanton play about the rigging, and tops,” probably from skylark (n.), influenced by (or from) lark (n.2). Related: Skylarked ; skylarking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Rice Paper Birds on a winter's day

Rice Paper Birds on a winter’s day

Creek

 

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“SongLines”, Paper collage and watercolour on watercolour paper, 10″ x 22″

During “Immersed in Nature: A Retreat at Valley View Farm“, a weekend hosted by my friend Debra and I in late August, we considered and explored line, shape and colour. The lines, shapes and colours  that called to us as we explored the natural world.

Much of my preparation for this weekend took place at Pheasant Creek Coulee, a few miles south of our farm. As I sit by the large stone I have come to know as “Grandfather Rock”, I am drawn by the shape of the creek, by the way that it winds and weaves. Again and again, I have drawn or painted or sketched  the creek as it sings and curls its way through the coulee and the hills in which it resides.

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"Pheasant Creek Coulee"

“Pheasant Creek Coulee”

 

 

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During our retreat, I began to play with the shape of the creek, starting with watercolours and eventually adding metallic papers – candy and chocolate wrappers, cigarette foils, origami paper. And there my own simple exploration of line, shape and colour sat for several weeks. I kept thinking “song line”…. it seemed the curves and rhythms of the creek were both outside me and singing deep within my body.

Collage- shape, line

Collage- shape, line, colour

I knew that I wanted the feeling of hills around the creek but not necessarily something representational. I began to play with shapes and contours, with different shades of rusts, browns, coppers, gold…..I wanted to capture the feel of the place, the movement of the hills, the way that this place sings within me, how it feels like  treasure.

Image 6 Image 7Once finished, I took this piece to the place that inspired it to photograph it. Seeing it in the coulee, amidst the rust of the little bluestem grasses, the gold of the aspen leaves, the shadows of the hawthorn and birch seemed somehow right, plus felt incredibly goofy (in a good way) and was just a lot of fun.
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Putting Up Paper Preserves

At a collage PLAYshop, paper is everywhere. Large sheets are displayed on laundry racks, rolls on window sills, trays of coordinated colours – old wrapping paper, candy wrappers, envelope linings, you name it. Some of the paper is textured, some translucent, some brilliant and many hued, some flecked with gold, some shiny, some thin as tissue. The people who come to a PLAYshop already love paper. I ask them to begin by picking the paper that calls their name, the paper that brings their hand to their heart, the paper that won’t leave them alone…IMG_2110Sometimes people come with a plan but a piece of paper takes them in another direction. Occasionally, two pieces of paper lying in a particular suggest idea. Magical scrap baskets which contains yesterday’s rejected bits of paper are somebody else’s inspiration.Image 4IMG_1141
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Tania started with transluscent paper but found she could not stay away from bold and brilliant colours. As she created whimsical jars of preserves to keep her spirit strong  over winter, she asked us all “What would you preserve?” A prairie fall day, the hope of a rainbow, saskatoon berries, the buzzing of bees on sunshine… sometimes just a brilliant colour (the new green of spring) or a piece of paper that simply could not be resisted.

Tania's jars of preserves - in process

Tania’s jars of preserves – in process

I have enjoyed thinking about what we preserve and what we let go. Just today, I dug carrots – some will go in the cold room and we will enjoy this delicious root vegetable in another season. Maybe I will think of the smell of rotting apples and freshly turned over soil which I enjoyed as I dug them. Some of the carrots, I ate raw today, with a little dirt clinging to them, the freshness of their taste mouthwatering, their crunch loud!!

Preserves are meant to be tasted and enjoyed at some point. They are not meant to stay in their jars forever. Jellies and relishes, jams and salsas…. their colours, tastes, smells take us back to the warmth and abundance of late August.

Much of the paper collage art I create will not endure – the paper will fade, disintegrate, get torn. What matters most to me is the completely absorbed and happy world I inhabit while creating. Added benefit: Maybe for a few days or a few years, the piece will give someone pleasure.

Sometimes the art we hang becomes so familiar that we no longer really see it.  The rice paper pieces are often in flux –  they catch our attention as the light changes during the day, as the colours outside our windows change from green to oranges and yellows, browns and finally dazzling whites and purples and blues. The translucence of the rice paper sends shadows to our walls as the sun moves across the sky. They look completely different at night, especially from the outside of your home. The art itself is ephemeral, a glimmer, a sheen, always shifting.

Rice Paper Birds on a winter's day

Rice Paper Birds on a winter’s day

In a sense each of us who created something at the PLAYshop were “putting up preserves” for a winter day. For Janet, the vision of dragonflies on a summer day.

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Janet's  dragonfly panels. First time playing with paper!

Janet’s
dragonfly panels. First time playing with paper!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Liz and Karen, a flower garden that can offer light and colour on winter’s coldest day.

Liz's flower panel

Liz’s flower panel

 

Karen, the speed demon,  with her first try at a rice paper panel

Karen, the speed demon, with her first try at a rice paper panel

 

For Darlene, the elegance of a tiny perfect golden flower and birds in flight.

Darlene holding her bird panel and her exquisite miniature cards

Darlene holding her bird panel and her exquisite miniature cards

Darlene's rice paper bird panel

Darlene’s rice paper bird panel

For Jocelyn, a fanciful hummingbird.

Jocelyn and Liz with their birds

Jocelyn and Liz with their birds

For Tania, the abundance of her own amazing imagination – taking form in jars of preserves., some of the jars unable to contain all their contents, bursting with possibility, and sometimes even with flight…

Tania's jars of preserves - almost complete

Tania’s jars of preserves – almost complete.

 

Mornings at the Coulee

I have been thinking back to Julys of years past, a tumble of days at the beach, bonfires at night, gardening, packing and unpacking from camping trips and so much else. Sometimes I would manage just one trip down to the coulee to see the amazing July wildflowers and I would dream of the day that I could spend much more time there in the company of the flowers, and get to know them better.

Unbelievable, but that time has come! With an (almost) empty nest and no faraway trips planned, I have been slipping down to Pheasant Creek Coulee at 6 or 6:30 many mornings and staying for a few hours until the sun gets too hot. I bring a thermos of ginger tea, a knapsack of watercolour supplies, some sage to start with a smudge and not much else. When I am done, I pick wild Saskatoons from the bushes at the top of the hills. It is my version of paradise.

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Prairie Coneflowers

Prairie Coneflowers

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