Category Archives: watercolour painting

Art Buddies

 

When I was about 10, an uncle who was a  “Sunday artist” spent an afternoon  showing me how to draw cups and bowls. He taught me about volume and perspective, taught me how to shade with my pencil, and encouraged me to draw  with a “light touch.” He was patient and seemed to enjoy himself. I soaked up the attention. My aunts and uncles loved us all, but it was very rare for one of them to pay particular attention to one of us cousins. They were in their world and we were in ours. I now suspect that this uncle wasn’t so comfortable in the adult world, so for an afternoon, he crossed over.

When I was imagining “Explorations in Art” I wanted the young people who came to experience that kind of attention.  I have often worked with large groups of children and youth. Let the wild ruckus begin! Sometimes big group art experiences are more about handling materials and general chaos and completing a project  than learning about art.

My first ever Explorations in Art student was Lanelle. For the past two years Lanelle has come once a month, sometimes more and occasionally, less. Among her consuming passions are dragons, so we have learned a lot about art by exploring dragons. But we have also explored tractors, wildflowers, pencils, faces, cubes, cylinders, dogs, ski hills. Together with others we have explored art in the city, both in galleries but also in back alleys, restaurants and tattoo parlours. We have visited the horses, skated on the ice rink, climbed the hills and visited Grandmother Willow in all seasons. We play weird games in the car.  Lanelle has brought along her sister, her mom, her cousins and once, eight of her friends! We have favourite snacks – hot chocolate, ginger cookies, pizza. I have been promising her mango smoothies. She has promised me a fiddle concert under the willow tree.

One of the guiding principles of “Explorations in Art” is “Teaching is a two way path”. Nothing could be truer. I have a wonderful group of students and I do not doubt for a moment that they are among the very best  teachers I have ever had. They inspire me to see the world in new ways. Their interests take me in new directions. They shake me up.

While the one-on-one approach of “Explorations in Art” allows me to offer a student my full attention and tailor our time together according to their various interests, abilities and working rhythms, it also offers an unintended benefit – the very best art companions. It is about relationship as much as it is about art.

As such, the way Lanelle and I  create art together has changed. This summer we spent many happy hours creating in the same room…just enjoying the calm, creative, entirely enjoyable, and beautiful world we were inhabiting together. Lanelle is in charge of music – sometime roots music, sometimes calming music and sometimes dance music – for that, we have Marvin Gaye. Sometimes we have to shake it up and dance or do calisthenics. Sometimes we listen to a book. We have the same quirky (and sometimes dark) sense of humour. Sometimes Lanelle is absolutely quiet. She can be incredibly focussed. Sometimes she talks my ear off.

During the spring, we were having a wonderful talk and I had an epiphany. Lanelle is a kindred spirit. Friends for life, I am sure.  Renegades. Art buddies. So, this blog is for you Lanelle – with a thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s also for my long ago (late) uncle who took the time. Another thank you.

(Question for Lanelle: How would you paint the bottom of a heart? Have you ever seen a person’s ear fall off because the other person was talking a lot?)

Lanelle’s most recent project, summer of 2017

Close up

We both love working on the floor. Keeps us down to earth (sort of).

Lanelle’s piece inspired this “Sprites Dancing in Full Moon” .We both love this lovely blue paper and I was inspired by the simple clean lines in Lanelle’s piece.

Lanelle’s first dragon with piles of gold coins plus some wonderful food, fall 2015

Sketching around the farmyard, spring 2016

Spring 2016

Collecting ticks and painting wildflowers, Spring 2016

Painting Pots PLAYshop, Spring 2016

Dominique and Lanelle, Art in the City, Summer 2016

Art in the City, Lanelle’s 7 minute sketch, summer 2016

Lanelle’s surprise Christmas gift for her family. A watercolour (framed by Lanelle) of her family skiing at Mission Ridge, fall 2016

Paper Playshop, Fall 2016

Lanelle’s friends, winter 2017

Self- Portrait #1

Watercolour, Winter 2017

Neve’s mermaid (Lanelle’s little sister) and Lanelle at work

 

 

Into the Hawthornes

Down on hands and knees

through the door of thorny branches,

just big enough

and into the hawthornes

right in the middle

 

sssshhh…if you can stay quiet

long enough

they come back

the birds, the squirrels

to eat the red berries

 

if you can stay as still as a hawthorne

you can hear the soft wingbeat of a fairy

 

if you can stay quiet

you can catch the scent

of the coyote who slept here last night

you can feel the slow heartbeat of the earth

that is holding you

loving you

back to life

 

Dolores and Alma

Dolores, left and Alma, right with "Four Directions"

Dolores, left and Alma, right with “Four Directions”

I want to share this simple, sweet story.

One of things I like about hosting my own art show is that I witness when a person falls in love with a piece of art. On the second day of my show, my friend Alma told me that she loved  a watercolour painting called “Four Directions” and that maybe she could afford  to buy it in September. This was a painting I had begun for a specific project. Partway through painting this piece I learned that my art was not what the client had in mind. Funny thing, this piece had moved right into me, stirred me up  and I needed to finish it for myself – project or no project. I couldn’t not finish it! I was so delighted that it touched Alma.

I woke up the next morning with one thought. It seemed to me that the painting should be Alma’s. When I arrived at the show, I put a “sold” marker on it.

Enter my friend Dolores. When Dolores first saw “Four Directions”, her hand went to her heart and she said, ” I want to buy this painting. I just love it.” I told her about Alma.fullsizeoutput_1a4a

I pondered this the next few days and phoned Dolores with a proposition to loan her the painting for four months until Alma’s birthday, at which time I would offer it to Alma.

I intended to pick it up from Dolores and deliver to Alma, as a surprise. Then I had a better idea. These two women had at least two things in common, so I asked Alma to come and meet my friend Dolores, which she did. She didn’t even ask why!

It was the sweetest get together. These two elders have each meant so much to me, as friends and as teachers. Alma is also my relative now, by the sweet virtue of my daughter and her grandson falling in love. Alma was the presiding elder at the first women’s sweats I ever attended. We have known each other for many years. Alma offers her wisdom and knowledge, her love for her native Cree language and the teaching embedded in it to many people of all ages and all nations. Alma’s voice soothes and gentles  me.  My friend Dolores epitomizes hospitality, the generous heart. I can talk to her about almost anything. Her hospitality comes as naturally as breath. She is a listener. I always leave her home feeling nurtured and treasured, not to mention well-fed. To sit in Dolores’s welcoming home, enjoying cookies and tea while these two wonderful women got to know each other was more dear than I can say.

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Dolores, Alma, Sue with Cherie Westmoreland photo in the background

Dolores gave Alma homemade socks. We shared stories. We took a selfie! Alma carefully carried away her painting wrapped in the garbage bag Dolores had given her. The gratitude and warmth I felt for these moments and the gifts of these two women in my life expanded into the next day, and the next, and today as well.

This post is dedicated to my own mum, Alice Sylvia Frith Bland, who died 20 years ago on Hallowe’en. I feel her presence and love often. I am grateful to all the mother figures who have blessed my life, and who continue to bless it. Thank you. Hiy Hiy.

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″

 

To Barter

bar·ter
ˈbärdər/
verb
1.
exchange (goods or services) for other goods or services without using money.
“he often bartered a meal for drawings”
synonyms: trade, swap, exchange, sell
“they bartered grain for salt”

Barter #1- IT help for a watercolour

Some time ago, I panicked when I could not get into the “dashboard” (where I make changes, add and delete things) of my website. I tried to enter multiple times with the predictable result  that I was locked out. I had that sick feeling when we realize we know very little about something we depend on for so very much. My trouble shooting daughter could not help me out this time.

I put out a plea out on Facebook, and met Ruth, the daughter of a friend who was willing to help. I stopped in late at night, after her long work day.  When it seemed to be a more complicated problem than I thought, I left the computer with her for a sleep over. Alas, just at the edge of the city, Ruth and her husband called – they had solved the problem and I drove back. I could not have been more relieved or grateful. It was not just that they had helped me out, it was they did it with such good grace and good humour, and never showed for an instant that they would rather be doing someting else.

I offered them eggs, honey, money or art. Ruth asked for a watercolour of blue eyed grass. Blue eyed grass grows both in my birth home in Ontario as well as here in Saskatchewan. A small deep blue flower with a yellow centre, it often takes my breath away when I see it in a thatch of grass. It is a surprise, it has the power to get you to stop and bend down and look at it really closely, it is diminutive and unassuming. I have often thought of painting it but didn’t feel I have the mastery to catch its essence.

20151215_101415Usually I plunk myself down beside the flower and like to spend time with it before painting it but of course, it is winter and I cannot. I had a couple of pleasurable times exploring blue eyed grass with my watercolours. I never came close to expressing what I feel about this small wildflower, but I loved trying, and in the trying getting to know it better. I hope to spend more time with it next summer, perhaps on the coulee hills.

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Barter #2 – Children’s Book for Dance Lessons

When Donna asked me if I would be willing to work on a book for her grandson, I said, yes, but not for a fee, for a barter. I had a sense that while I wanted to give this a try, it would take quite a few hours and that a barter made way more sense than money. Donna had the story idea, and in fact had written it down and she and other family members had lots of photos.  It ended up being a combination of a scrapbook and a children’s story focused on one little boy and his nana who have a great and memorable adventure together. The gift in this exchange for me (not unlike the barter above) was how much fun and delight I had putting this together, and how sweet it was to celebrate the loving bond of a little guy and his Nana.

When Donna came to pick up the completed book, she asked what I would like in exchange. She is a very talented person, so I rhymed off “Baking orpickled eggs or started plants in spring or….I have this kind of crazy idea.” “What?” she asked. “Old time dancing lessons. Shane is a wonderful dancer and I am not, but I would love to learn.” That final suggestion made her eyes twinkle, so in spring, when her husband  is off seeding, we are going to push back the furniture in her living room and try a polka or two in her living room!

Because these two barters happened at the same time, I am struck by how much about them is pure gift. In the first case, there is the gift of the help I needed, of the generosity of spirit with which it was offered as well as giving me the chance to paint a flower I might otherwise not have tried. In the second case, it was a gift to be reminded of how I love to work on a project, especially a children’s book. There is the anticipated gift of dance lessons, and of dancing with Shane. On the other side of this equation, Ruth and Donna also both gave and received a gift.

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