Sunday, November 22, 2015

New project in the making

Hubby and I spent about nine weeks living in a small travel trailer this past summer into fall. I loved it, we experienced new to us places, spent a lovely time with family and I started an tiny arts project fitting for living in a tiny space. Of course this project also carries an environmental theme as my previous Nest project does. It also has the mandate of using recycled items as in yarn scraps and beads bought at thrift stores and garage sales rather than new.

Anyhow, lets go back to the beginning. I knew when we left on our travels that as I need to keep my hands busy to still an over active mind that it would be a good idea to bring along crochet hooks and some yarn I purchased for making hats. Well into the third or fourth day bored with hat making I began playing with small crochet and ended up with a sweet tiny vessel. I was intrigued to stitch up another, so by the time we reached Vancouver Island I had two tiny crocheted vessels. Then to add interest of nature I thought to fill the inside of these vessels with found items that consider tiny environments. Well my wonderful sisters were onboard with my ideas and donated small butterfly brooches and bug fabrics to add to the vessels. Then of course to fit the mandate of found materials we needed to peruse thrift stores for crochet threads, and yarns as well as some small found vessels as all are not going to be crocheted, yet all will have handiwork in or on them.

The idea incorporates traditional handiwork with nature. The past ideology of grooming young women into marriageable prospects whom learned needle work and placed it into a chest for future use, though before my time I might add. The thought that these chests hold hope for the prospects of the future, for they were called Hope Chests.

Hope for the future of Nature is my theme. Using needlework and found objects to recreate nature  placed within tiny vessels. In a sense Nature is being segregating from self, confined within a tiny vessel.
 So far I have been working on crocheting many varied vessels.
 Some will be decorated outside 
 and some will extend the limits of the vessel as growth erupting from within.
Combinations of random freeform crochet hopefully elicit a feeling of growth on some vessels.
This is but a beginning so these vessels may look far different when completed.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Bear Bear Bear

This post was written awhile back but for some reason it never posted.

I'm  being inspired by bears we watched last spring in Waterton Lakes National Park. It was a wonderful chilly drizzly windy with periods of sunshine kinda week spent admiring the remote beauty as mountains drifted in and out of sight amongst rain clouds. I love Southern Alberta landscapes where the rolling hills blend up to the mountains. The exception being constant gusting wind everyday, the constant howl does tend to drive one a wee bit crazy after a while.

Though Grizzly were spotted at higher elevations we pretty much stayed to the lower levels aside from one bitter cold windy rainy afternoon at Cameron Lake. We partially hiked the lakeside trail looking for glacier lilies and thankfully found two of the yellow beauties not too far along the trail as we really were not prepared for the extreme wind chill so headed back to the boat rental place to warm up.

With the experience ingrained in my spirit and diverse reference photos to work from I composed a few more bear paintings after finishing "Watching the Hikers" Acrylic, on wrapped canvas, 16x24 inches

"Masked Cinnamon Bear in Wildflower Meadow" 
Acrylic on wrapped canvas, 16x16 inches

I love the face of cinnamon bear as it was dark like a mask. I may at some point do a closer up view of its face but for these paintings the bears are in natural habitat and I want to maintain the impression of being viewed in the wilds, not close up photo-realistic as I tend to do. When out viewing we see form and shape and how light hits that form with contrasted dark shadow. Sometimes the animal is close enough and the light is just right to see their eyes but mostly not. Its more an experience. Excitement increases the adrenaline while almost silent exclamations escape the lips as we breathe out, all the while breathing in the moment, the beauty, the Wow of creation that we are but a tiny part of.

"Rocky Mountain Black Bear"
Acrylic on wrapped canvas, 10 x14 inches
This bear had the most black glossy coat, so shinny and rich looking that I struggled to achieve the look I wanted to portray. Did I get it?

There is one more on the drawing board of a bear I called Saddle Blanket. We watched Saddle Blanket and his/her mom traverse across an open meadow grubbing for roots and bulbs one eve at dusk. The light was fast receding behind the mountain but we were able to watch them for about ten minutes through our camera lens before them ambled over the hilltop out of view. Yes I view distant wildlife through a 300 prime lens; sure wish I could afford a pair of quality binoculars but with limited funds I make do with what I have.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sayward sunlight

Been off and about for a few months gathering reference material for creative endeavours. Picked up a few cast off tools to try out random marking on metal to get my hand back into print-making seeing as I have some old plates to re-work, alter or complete. It will be a new learning curve working with soy-based inks rather than oil based. Going as non-toxic as possible. Hope to get started next month and will try remember to document the process for future reference.

A few photos gathered while living in a 16 ft trailer for 2. 5 months.

Last Light of the setting sun above.
Below photo is Sayward Morning light enjoyed by a Robin and photographer.
 I quite enjoyed the play of sunlight on the robin while the sun had not yet hit the fence. Below photo is also about how the light was striking the sails.

 Kitty Coleman light.

 Wee bird that I still have to look up its name, but too much to do presently.

 Beauty in closely observed bark.
do you see the Tree Creeper?

Bowser  Bay Bear

Aside from doing photography a new venture akin to the 3.5 year "Nest Project" has been started, though this one involves crocheting small vessels. Thats all I can say about it for now as I've only completed one though have more are in progress.  Have a great day wherever you are.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Posting to the Edmonton Nature blog

I have written a few articles for the Edmonton Nature Blog. the most recent on the Beauty and Benefits of a Snag and instead of re-posting here you may click the link to read the article

Nuthatches nested and raised young in a backyard snag.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ottawa Citizen and the Vancouver Sun

Wow, its exciting to discover that the photo taken by Greg Southam of the Edmonton Journal of me wearing the Recycle Reuse skirt design that I created for the juried SkirtsAfire fashion show in Edmonton has also been covered by the Ottawa Citizen, The Province and Vancouver Sun. Amazing, not only was the SkirtsAfire HerArts Festival Fashion Show covered by CBC and CTV News Edmonton but my skirt design was covered further afield.
To see me shimmy a green and pink reuse tablecloths go to the link.

The following is an article I published to the Edmonton Nature Blog

In February, delighted to be chosen to design a skirt for SkirtsAfire herArts Festival that celebrates women playwrights, authors, actors, poets, musicians and visual artists I set to the task of creating in 1920 era Flapper style. The mandate that skirts be made of found or reuse items was the key inspiration. A brightly colorful skirt was created from plastic pink and lime green tablecloths and surveyors tape acquired from the Edmonton Reuse Centre. Flowing christmas tinsel, cassette tape ribbon, vegetable netting as well as metal strainer parts that musically jingle and clanked when the skirt was worn were the embellishments. 

Edmonton Reuse Centre is a wonderful place to send items that could be reused by parents, teachers and artists in creative projects. Now one may ask what has this got to do with a Nature Blog, well for one it diverts useable items from being landfill, and thats something every citizen can do to help protect nature. Its also a place for creative ideas to blossom, to look at items in a different way and encourage people to seek out new uses for items they generally discard.

The seven skirts chosen to be designed were showcased in the SkirtsAfire Fashion show broadcast by CBC, CTV News and the Edmonton Journal which kicked off the festival. A photo taken by Greg Southam of me dancing in the colorful plastic skirt was also featured by the Vancouver Sun, Province and the Ottawa Citizen, now thats wonderful coverage. The skirt and vest has since been donated to the Edmonton Reuse Centre and will be displayed in the board room so that others may enjoy it as well. The bonus, a bit of plastic has been diverted from the landfill and kept out of the natural environment.

Everyone can do their part to respect and protect Nature by reuse, recycle and upcycling items by thinking up new ways to use them rather than just tossing them out to the curb. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Was it not complete?

Was it complete? Well no. When I'm not satisfied with the overall look I can't help myself but to jump back in with paint on brush and make changes. At this point in a painting it can go two ways, worse or better. I am happy with all the hours, days that added up to a months worth of work that this painting improved with the extra days work.

this is the last image I posted which at this point I let the painting rest for a week then took another good look at it. Though it probably was good enough, I could see where it could be pushed further and strengthened by adding more darks into shadow areas and scumbling color into the foreground to integrate it into the rest of the painting.

This is the completed painting of "Watching the Hikers" it has since rested for over a week and I see no areas that leave me troubled. Done and ready to sign and get an isolation coat painted on to protect the image from dust.

Have a wonderful day.

Monday, February 23, 2015

SkirtsAfire fashion show and media blitz

What a great morning. We walked into the hall and noticed I was the oldest participant, which of course made hubby chuckle and call me an ole boot, Matriarch I corrected him, both chuckling by now. Then someone questioned if I was there to support my daughter, I laughingly replied "no this ole boot is one of the designers who decide to expand her comfort level".  I can now say I participated as a designer and model in the SkirtsAfire fashion show media blitz and had a blast. I loved the energy and the coming together of creative women, it was wonderful, its how it should be. Creative women supporting and promoting creativity in women, what a wonderful thing to be a part of. SkirtsAfire is now in its third year and I am so looking towards taking in some of the events. 

The opening ceremony is thursday March 5th from 5-7pm at the Nina Haggerty Gallery 9225 118 Ave.
My art work is in the juried art exhibition at the gallery, so we will be in attendance. 
From 1-3 pm on saturday there will be artists talks and viewing at the Gallery, I will be talking about my work but don't know what time.

Ok I promised photos, so my loving husband set to the task of capturing the show to share.
 Getting ready.

 I was the lead out and as my dress is titled "Dance the Night Away" based on 1920 Flapper era I shimmied, shook and twirled, in essence had great fun.

 Skirt made from used plastic tablecloths, surveyors tape, kitchen strainers, christmas tinsel, cassette tape and mesh fruit bags. The judges are sitting to the right and you can see some of the camera crews that were recording the event.

Next up was a fantastic creation by three young students Madison Braget, Brooke Fersovitch and Kaylee Gaines titled "Midnight Truffle" which was made of tarp layers fringed with a duck tape waistband fastened with bottle cap buttons. I loved seeing their youthful creativity they did an excellent job, the bottle cap buttons were in my mind a stroke of genius. Sorry no close up, though hope to take some close up photos on the mannequins when the SkirtsAfire Festival opens.
"Mas Claro" by Joan McFarlane. Great geometric design by arranging tea towels and bubble wrap. (this one is a runner up)

 Can you believe its door screening as the base of this skirt that is covered with receipts and cigarette foils. "Not-your-ordinary Lace Skirt" by Paola Cantal.

 Ira Tuzlukova made "Paper Couture" skirt totally out of folded paper, amazing. Founded on the idea of Alexander McQueen couture lines.

 "Save Our Trees, No Flyers Please" by Tessa Stamp and Christie Hutchinson. Tree branches and flyers attached to a burlap base, I love the matching head piece that pulled the woodsy look together. (This is the the winning skirt)

And "Sleight of Hand" by Kia Day, a fitted Pencil style skirt made from playing cards with a hint of red lace at the leg.

As one can tell the designs are varied, creative, fun and best of all they are made of reuse and upcycle. During the festival all skirts will be on display in the SkirtsAfire Cabaret Space at the Alberta Community League 9210 118th Ave.
I can honestly say I am pleased to have been chosen to be a part of the SkirtsAfire skirt design competition. Well done Ladies.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Is if finished?

Ok, so last post I showed the process of acrylic painting remembering to photograph the stages as each day progressed. The painting Watching the Hikers was viewed for two days and though it seemed complete I was not satisfied, I felt it could be pushed a bit further. The greens tended to be a bit too consistent as I used Ultramarine blue with Cadmiums it gave a muted green which was good for the effect of the cloudy spring day which was what the week camping in Waterton held for us.

Everyday was rainy for a portion of it which made for beautiful strong coloration of abundant wildflowers which were ablaze across the hillsides. Bears and coyote ambling through the fields were a joy to behold as we drove through the park. Due the rain, trails were slippery enough that I could not traverse them so we stayed pretty close to the highway, after all if I slip my poor hubby is the one who has to carry me back out, and I am not that light.

So back into the painting I ventured with Phthalo Blue mixed with Hansa Yellow plus Titanium White to create brighter and lighter green/blue hues to offset the muted one. The nice thing about acrylic is that areas can be overpainted. I mixed white in to soften the green area in front of the bears face to subdue and shift the background green back a bit more there. Shades of the new color blend was stroked on background trees for added variation which in my view added a bounce of life to those areas. Into the foreground pure color was randomly glazed and dabbed using a half inch brush both flat and on edge to add pops of the color into the foreground. Lastly Burnt Sienna was mixed with Ultramarine to darken and reshape the mid ground and add a earthy feel to the plants. Is it now done?

I let the painting sit overnight and this morning punched up the darks in a few areas defining the back trees a bit more. So far satisfied with it. You will notice a change in color tone from yesterday to todays photo, thats due the dark cloudy days we are having and yesterday I forgot to turn off my overhead light which cast a warm tone. Today though I had enough light to take the photo but had to lighten it on the computer. Also due the process of acrylic glazes light bounces through to the underlying colors just as in a watercolor painting making it quite difficult to get an exact copy of the painting. In reality I believe the truth is somewhere between the two images. I need to wait for a day with good consistent natural lighting to capture a final photo of the painting but for reference images this is ok.

As with most artists the more we paint/create the more we learn the more we develop. So practice and keep on creating.

In the last three weeks I have painted three acrylic paintings. "In the Wake of the Loons" a canoeist on a lake at evening when the light becomes bold across the landscape. "Cameron Waterfalls" at Waterton Lakes National Park and "Watching the Hikers" also a Waterton landscape.

Another Bear in the wildflowers painting is in its rough draft stage, will I remember to document its progress? I will attempt to as I wish to push this one with bolder wider looser brush strokes and use less muted color. I have an idea in my mind where I wish to go with this one which is unusual for me as I tend to paint tight and very detailed. Maybe this is another turning point in painting for me, time and paint will tell.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Waterton National Park Bear Painting in acrylic from start to finish.

I love bears and I love watching and painting them. Last spring we camped in Waterton to study bears as they grazed on the open mountainside meadows. In all we were blessed with seeing about eight different bears and the meadows were abundant with a blaze of colorful blossoms.
 Mostly I paint tightly with high detail so this time I made a conscious decision to paint in a looser style. Instead of doing a highly detailed drawing onto canvas I only noted the bear and the mountains basic outline with a bit of detail to keep me on track. Keeping with the notion for my brush strokes to have more freedom I painted standing up, normally I sit while painting. Mixing a good quantity of acrylic gel into the paints brushed on with a one inch brush in a very loose manner to cover the canvas gives an initial color tone.

 The next step was to mix color with less gel though still keeping the colors washy yet darker tone shaping the forms with paint. The colors are Liquitex Cadmium red med hue, cadmium yellow light hue and Ultramarine blue (green shade) as well as titanium white mixed in to shape the moody spring sky that blends into the snow ridges on the mountain. I always use quality paints and high quality canvas to work on. It costs more but is well worth the extra dollars spent.

 Adding more paint and less gel the painting advances as more detail is added. Greens are all made up of blends of Cadmium yellow and ultramarine blue with varying touches of red to tone and mute some areas.

 I now push the paintbrush flowers with vivid pure strokes of cad red & cad yellow and add white to ultramarine to define the blue flower shapes.

 Passages of gray tones are created using the primary colors to add depth to effectively push the lighter mountains back into the distance. With a touch of burt sienna into the ultramarine the foreground is glazed to tone down some areas and some of the paintbrush flowers are toned down.

 The completed painting converted to black and white on the computer to check tonal balance.

The painting is complete, at least at this point I believe it to be. I will leave off painting at this point and see how I like it a week from now. Sometimes I get too close to a piece and don't see the flaws till later so its best to leave it alone and work on the next. Actually I work on up to three paintings at a time  bouncing back and forth between them. If I get stuck on what to do next I switch to another to keep the momentum going, well thats the theory if alls going well. This painting which is 16x 20 inches took about one week to produce. Title which came to me as I was painting is "Watching the Hikers"

Friday, February 13, 2015

2nd post about SkirtsAfire design competition

Wish I could say making a plastic tablecloth skirt is an easy-breezy chore, but, I cannot. Its a good thing I didn't procrastinate on this project as there have been a few minor set-backs. First was breaking threads and screwy tension on the sewing machine. I figured the top tension was askew so I went online to investigate how to remove the top cover. Frustration set after a few hours searching. Thank goodness Super-hubbies excellent google skills got it figured out. The cover was removed to reveal an astounding amount of dust and fibre lint staring me down. After a bit of dusting and finagling with tweezers removing thread from deep moving parts I was impressed that I was able to put everything back together; good thing attention was paid to how hubby removed it.

 My initial idea was to use tinsel held together at one end figuring I could just stitch across the top attaching it to the plastic. Well, not to be as the plastic is too fragile, too thin, too old, tears easy. Yes, tears easy, oh my the words emitting from the depth of the studio was… well lets just say its a good thing hubby has a sense of humour and finds my outburst funny. So time for a rethink. I dig through more old recycle stuff destined for the Reuse store and find the mangle of tinsel you see above.

 Since the tinsel cannot be sewn to the plastic I decide to loop it through the strainer parts instead, whoohoo, looks like it going to work. So after three hours looping and tying progress is made.

As the skirt needs a display stand during the SkirtsAfire Festival an old dress form purchased for an art project years ago needed bulked up as its a good six inches smaller than the breadth and depth of my body shape. I cut up an old quilted coat and hand stitched it to the form filling in the waist area, then wrapped and stitched an old blanket to fill out the rest of the form topped off by a t-shirt to hold it all intact. Oh shiiii..t the legs on the stand wobble and tip the form over. Once again Super-hubby to the rescue to tighten bolts. The skirt is placed on the form and ahghhhh... the tinsel has shook loose due its slipperiness and is falling to the floor. NOooooo!
Rethink time!
Tea time.

My Achy Breaky Heart cassette is cut and tied in with silver, red and gold tinsel for varied texture. 

The fix is thick pink cotton thread from a rummage sale. 

The re-thread job after two days of work as it is a finicky slippery process.

As one may now realize I've only given a glimpse of materials, the reason for this tease is that the completed skirt will be shown in a fashion show on february 23, so please be patient as the completed skirt will be after that date.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Textiles from Fragile Elements exhibition.

These three textiles were shown in the Fragile Elements Exhibition last March/April at the Art Gallery of St Albert along with my hand built nests. They spurred much conversation and interest with art patrons and visitors to the show. If they do not sell in due time I may incorporate them into an article of clothing so that they are enjoyed by myself as creative attire.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


I find it interesting to push limits of creativity with varied materials and venture into what one may consider Alternative Art if for no other reason that to have fun and bring creative thoughts into the visual realm. Mostly though no matter how fun my alternative work may seem it belies an underlying message about consumer waste of a throw away society and how our waste impacts nature. So when the call came out... Skirts must be constructed only of found upcycled materials and must be wearable. 
I jumped at the opportunity to design and create a Skirt for the event. My present undertaking of using items destined for the trash bin based on that mandate as well as... skirts are to incorporate the theme of "Finding the Magic in the Mundane"
The Mundane materials that had outlived their previous purpose are slightly tattered lime green and pink plastic tablecloths, red and yellow surveyors tape, two metal kitchen strainers disassembled, pink cotton thread found at a past rummage sale, plastic mesh fruit bags, worn out leggings, silver tinsel and possibly cassette tape. The Magic is in the process of turning mundane materials into a skirt inspired by 1920 Flapper era.
Dismantling vegetable strainers.

Blast of color and shine.

Six skirts will be chosen to be constructed for the festival.
I'm happy my design was chosen and have been busy each day working on my skirt as the SkirtsAfire fashion show and media blitz happens February 23rd, though the skirt must be submitted by the 20th. My design is being altered a bit from the original sketch as I found the thin plastic tattered in places making it challenging to work with. One mandate of the design is that the skirt be wearable and hold up for the fashion show and further display; so I've cut up ragged tights destined for the rag bin and backed the waist to hip section to re-enforced the waistband area as potential of the plastic tablecloths to tear was too great. Another challenge is machine stitching thin plastic. I've discovered stitch length needs to be at 4 and to sew very slowly. Go too fast the thread breaks or the plastic tears, too small a stitch can also cause a tear due close perforations. Happily though the yellow surveyors tape is quite strong and durable adding strength to the skirt where needed.

The sketch proposal displayed a zigzag pattern around the upper portion of the skirt which has been simplified due the materials being used.

Designing the hip sash is creative fun, its a lot of playful arranging and rearranging, a bit of pulling stitches to create ruffling, cutting and twisting mesh bags and joining layers for fullness. Ah, its all coming together. Soon what was kitchen cast offs will be a skirt for dancing the night away in.

Art Clothing seems to be in a category of its own. While perusing online I see many creative artists working with clothing as art or using the image of clothing in art in varied ways with varied media. It amazes me as well as inspires to view the amount of artists who create using found items and stand by the motto to reuse, recycle and upcycle diverting items from the landfills.

Its beyond time to quit indiscriminate buying and tossing as our landscape is literally littered with plastic refuse that does not break down, its non-friendly to the planet. So what I hope for is to inspire others to be creative with what they have on hand, reuse what you can, recycle, upcycle and support local small farmers, local artists and artisans.

The alternative art I create tells a story, it has a past life and I hope creates awareness.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year 2015 is here

Last evening we walked to our Community Centre to view the wonderful fireworks display that is put on each year. Thankfully it was a balmy 2 degrees out so we were able to walk, most years we have to drive as my body cannot handle below zero. There were many many people out for the event, my hubby figures at least 400 showed up,  may be a record attendance.

This notification came in last week.
Your skirt for the SkirtsAfire design competition has been chosen to participate in our fashion show judging, the next step in being named the SkirtsAfire official Skirt of 2015. 
We were very excited to receive so many creative designs and can not wait to see them come to life. All the designs truly did "find the magic in the mundane."

My design entails a dress being made of reuse and recycle materials. Wish me luck that all goes well and I'm able to complete the task. Hopefully I will remember to take photos as I create so that I may share the project with followers of this blog. Take care and may 2015 be a blessed year.