January 22, 2010

The past few months have been a blur of meetings, exhibitions, the open house and Christmas.  My creative soul started to crave some uninterrupted creative time without agendas.  Finally I’ve given this to myself.  Instead of flying off to a warmer climate and adventures in South America or elsewhere, I knew I needed time to just be in the studio.  At first it was scary.  All the old questions about “do I really have anything creative to say?” surfaced.  I spent quite allot of time, cleaning and organizing my studio (procrastinating). Then I did a couple of safe watercolours to just get painting again. 



Finally this week, I gave myself permission to just try different stuff.  Failing or succeeding is irrelevant.  Having fun and being creative is the goal.

Jim and I  have been thinking about possibly taking a trip by car later this year across Canada.  Since I am a reluctant car traveler, I’ve been trying to think of a new rug idea that would be fun to hook while traveling.  I have just finished reading a novel (actually the one I gave Danica for Christmas) call Sunflowers.  It was about Vincent Vangogh and I really enjoyed it.  (I’m especially contemplating the fact that in his life time he only ever sold one painting!  No wonder he chopped off his ear and later committed suicide.)   While laying in bed, I played over in my mind, Vangogh's  fantastic sensual use of colour.  I also thought about my friend Laurie Gunn’s latest hooking.  She started with random bits of wool and did a wonderful chair mat  just playing with colours.  I envisioned my own starry night image, playing with colours.  The next day in the studio, I scribbled a little drawing, with a little watercolour on top.

Then I got out some new oil sticks that I just happened to have on hand and started a little oil. 


I found the paint buttery and so soft and wet that I decided I would like to try a big acrylic painting where I could really control the colours. And because I was trying a big acrylic painting of my Starry Night, I thought I’d also like to try a small acrylic study of rocks.  Last autumn, while painting with Susan Tooke and Richard Rudnicki, I was gob smacked by their fresh spontaneous little acrylic landscapes, with their pink underpainting. So much more powerful than the watercolours I was doing.  I need to try that I thought.  And so I am.  Where is this leading?  I don’t know but it is exciting.  First of all, I really don’t know how to handle oils or acrylics so I have allot to learn.  And today I need to order more acrylic colours since I gave away my acrylics to my daughter.  There’s only so much I can do with yellow, red, blue, white and black that I bought before Christmas. Luckily a dear high school friend gave me a gift certificate for $ 200 worth of art Supplies from Cheap Joes and  I’ve been wondering just what I would spend it on.  Now I know. Thank you Shawna.

I also envision an enormous painting of the light on rocks but perhaps for the next while I’ll try to keep things loose and fun.  The big oil of two boats that did this summer seemed to get really tedious and to take forever to do!  I felt as if I’d paint all day and then the next day I’d spend the day painting over and changing exactly what I had painted the day before.   In addition Jim is selling his truck and large paintings are particularly hard to move. I do have another midsized canvas and perhaps I’ll try a painting of the rocks with my oil sticks.  That would be fun and fast and sculptural. Will I give it a pink acrylic under painting????

I also have two ideas for plays that I want to write but just never seem to put my mind into.  Organizing my studio reminded me of both of these ideas and finally this morning, I spent the morning working on one of them, and it feels great!  

2010 Trip Account


Our two month driving adventure to Alaska was just great. Jim is just wonderful to travel with.   I do feel totally proud to be Canadian and I now have warm feelings for the prairies, the mountains, the Pacific coast and the north.


After visiting friends and family in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba,  we were off to Banff to visit with my youngest daughter, Yolande.  The second night there, Yolande and I went into Calgary to see Love Lies Bleeding, a ballet set to Elton John’s music about his life. Our friend, Heather English, had worked on the amazing costumes at the Banff School of Fine Art. Unfortunately for her, she wasn’t in Alberta at the time of the performance and so she treated us with her two tickets!   In addition to having a wonderful one on one evening in Calgary with Yolande, I am still thinking about the experience of seeing this contemporary art piece.


Most of time on the trip, we camped.  It was just fine for the most part.  A few times it was very very cold.  After I bought a second sleeping bag and used one inside the other, I was comfortable even when it was snowing!  I was scared of bears when we were in bear country (and really what part of Canada is not bear country).  Eventually Jim bought me some bear spray and a bear popper and although I never needed to use either, I felt much braver. At one camp ground near Scagway, there had been a grizzly in the camp ground the day before we arrived.  I took photos of every bear that we saw  ( all black bears).  One day we saw 13!  Really the camping, was preferable to the budget motels that we resorted to occasionally.  I love having a bed, a shower and a flush toilet but I prefer having a fantastic view of a glacier, a mountain or a lake.  When we camped in Juneau, we had the Mandenhal Glacier right across the lake from us.  It seemed like it was all ours.  Jim and I drove to the interpretation site and it was swarming with Asians.  Thousands of them were in port on four enormous cruise ships. Although it was interesting helping old Japanese women over the rocks to view the glacier,  I never would have enjoyed the glacier the same way if we hadn’t had our very own view of it from our campsite without any people. We had several days in Dawson City, camping in a Yukon camp site across the river.  One evening we returned from enjoying Diamond Tooth Gertie’s evening show to find that our tent had been demolished by a big tree.  Lucky for us we weren’t in it.  The next day we managed to buy another tent in Tok, Alaska.


Another special treat for me was seeing Lake Labarge as well as going to a Parks Canada presentation at Robert Service`s cabin.  (“It was out on the marge of Lake Labare, that I cremated Sam Magee”)  My Grandpa Henderson used to recite this poem to me.  As a four year old, I always thought it was a bit on the wild side,  lugging a dead man along on a sleigh and then setting him on fire.  The clincher was when the chap opens the door and there is Sam; “Close the door for a gratefully fear you’ll let  in the cold and the storm.  Since I left Plum Tree down in Tennessee, I haven’t been so warm.”


 The trip by boat up from Prince Rupert to Skagway Alaska was a wonderful four days.  We spent two nights on the upper deck in deck chairs in our sleeping bags.  One morning we had a stop in Sitka Alaska from 4 AM until 7 AM.  At 3:15, it was announced that we would be docking in 45 minutes.  I promptly went back to sleep.  Suddenly Jim woke me and said that we were docking.  I jumped up and quickly got dressed and we were off by taxi to downtown Sitka.  Sitka has an amazing totem park full of enormous trees and totems and all surrounded by ocean.  As you can imagine, we pretty much had the park to ourselves.  Certainly viewing totems in this park and in many small villages was a highlight of the trip for me.  On the ferry ride we also saw lots of orca whales, humpback whales,  and sea lions, and porpoises.


Jim safely drove us 20,200 km in our new to us Matrix.  I hooked the entire trip and when I threatened to finish my mat before I got home, I took some of the stars out and made them more interesting.   If you are ever planning a similar adventure, then please be advised that a Matrix is not nearly as good for hooking as our old Volkswagen beetle.  In the beetle, my hooking frame  fits on the dash in front of the wind shield and I don’t keep bumping the gear shift into third!  The one modern invention that made the trip really easy was the Garim that I gave Jim for his birthday.  A friendly voice never got annoyed with us for missing a turn but merely recalculated and got us going in the right direction.  We did decide several times not to listen to her after she had directed us off onto several gravel roads.  Before we departed on the trip, one of our friends, Bruce Gray, surprised us with some books on cds.  We enjoyed many hours of these books, including one of poets.  To start with, I read the bio in the book and then we listened to the poet read their own work.  When we discovered that we didn`t much care for some of the poetry we decided to listen to the poetry first.  Then if we liked it, I would read the bio.


When it was possible to stop, I did get out my painting stuff and do some watercolours.  None of them really turned out to my satisfaction. The actual mountains were so moving and fantastic, I would have liked to have captured their big beauty, but I found it very very hard to reduce the size and grandeur of mountains to 10” x 14”.  I am still glad that I had the time to paint the mountains though, because for me, sitting and painting, is a way that I really experience things.


One tragedy of the trip was that I lost the wonderful hat that Laurie Gunn had knit me.  This hat was a fabulous box creation with two ears.  From the ears dangled a bunch of little colourful felt balls.  I was wearing my hat day and night.  It was gradually getting larger and larger.  Just before it went missing, I told Jim that if it got any bigger, I wouldn’t be able to see.  Fortunately at my 60 birthday party, Laurie surprised me with another hat. She must have started knitting as soon as I lamented the loss.


Throughout the trip I was enjoying some very tall skinny trees.  Jim told me they were Sitka Spruce.  One day at a museum, I saw a large poster with two of the trees on it.  I said to Jim,  “Look! The poster says that those trees are subal pines.”  Jim read the poster and said “ The sign says Subalpine!” After that we saw a lot of subal pines!


Definitely I was happy happy happy to return safely home.  Jim was sad that the trip was over.  I think that he`d have happily kept right on going,  The past couple of weeks have been hugely busy as we tried to attend all of our annual meetings, as well as get the gallery open.  Just sorting all the mail was a chore.  Both of us have boards that we neglected while we were away.  I also came home to have my 60 birthday.  It was so much fun, but I had a hard time getting the house ready for it.  The gardens are sort of weeded now and the pots and baskets all hung.  Tourism seems non- existent and so it may end up being a very quiet summer.  We still have to have one of us at home and at the ready incase we do eventually get people.  I`m teaching a three day workshop in New Brunswick at the end of next week so that is my next challenge to get organized for that.