I had always known about Nellie McClung and her fight for women's rights and her connection to the Famous Five. I knew she was instrumental in assisting Manitoba as the first Canadian province to give women voting rights in 1916 and that she had spoken in Airdrie during her travels. But when my youngest daughter was in middle school, I learned to so much more. We read every book and watched documentaries for school projects. My youngest daughter and I visited her home along with the sculpture depicting the Famous Five in Calgary and now the replica in Heritage Park. All of her life was spent in teaching, first children, and then a nation through public speaking and writing and also raised five children. Her dedication to the rights of women began at a very young age when she was not allowed to race at a picnic and she didn't understand why being a girl made a difference so she decided to change things. That is how we have aspired to raise my daughters and they have made us proud.
Recently I had the honour of being notified that I have been nominated for the Soul of Airdrie Award. It's interesting to me as I have been very involved in my community because I want to help make it even better than it already is and feel privileged to be able to contribute in a way that means so much to me. When I was a young woman I wanted to volunteer when I lived in Winnipeg briefly but never knew how to go about it, or whether what I could contribute would be of any value. Because I hadn't completed by BFA or been highly trained in any particular area or without having years of experience behind me I didn't think I could be of any assistance. And then I moved to Airdrie almost twenty years ago and I was approached with numerous opportunities. My daughters' elementary school welcomed me with open arms, giving me small responsibilities and then growing them as they knew my skills, interests and history. After that came the Airdrie Public Library, followed by contributions to the Alliance Church, Airdrie Food Bank and the Boys & Girls Club. And then my friend Sherry Shaw-Froggatt asked if I thought a painted chair project would be a good idea...we began brainstorming and the AIRdirondack Art Project was born, then Creative Airdrie Society, Main Street Project, ARTember, Mayor's Night of the Arts and several other projects in between. I don't always know what I'm doing but I do enjoy meeting people and learning together. It really is a privilege.
Next week these three pieces are to be installed into the new wing of Nova Chemicals and I am really looking forward to seeing them in place. Apparently there are hundreds of employees at that location and I hope that my artwork gives those who view it a measure of joy and peace. I know I say it over and over again, but it really is such a privilege when my work is exhibited in public spaces, especially permanently. A special thank you Nova and thank you Inglewood Fine Arts.
What a fantastic night this year's TD Airdrie Mayor's Night of the Arts was...seeing so many friends and celebrating with those who received this year's beautiful awards which were created by local artist Erin Conn. I enjoyed my evening backstage sharing the winner's names with the presenters and chatting and laughing with performers and friends. Though I didn't think it was possible after living in Airdrie for almost 20 years, I met several lovely new people and enjoyed champagne, h'ors deuvres and delicious Avenue Cakery treats. I was so privileged to be a guest and a recipient of the FortisAlberta Professional Artist award last year and thrilled when my friend Michelle Wiebe received it this year as well as seeing my friend Samreen receive an award for her contribution to the community.
Another highlight for me was watching Storm, a successful local band whom I've been cheering since they were 14 years old collaborate with local musician Christin Hudson who went to school with my eldest daughter and recently won the Calgary Stampede Talent competition and immediately donated the $10,000 prize to a shelter. Their performance was such a hit it ended up on CBC Calgary this morning. I am so proud to live in this community filled with so much talent and grace.
I have loved Meryl Streep for as long as I can remember as every single time I have watched her I have forgotten that I am watching Meryl Streep and rather connect with the characters she plays. My favorite movie of all time is 'Out of Africa' and I continue to watch it and be mesmerized by her. Having a birth date close to hers (only 3 days later), this woman who was told she was too ugly for movies but chose to continue to fight for her work, has always been an inspiration to me. As a young girl then a teen, she was an important role model for me...and I admire her today as much as I did then.
I am honoured and excited to be presenting at the Calgary chapter of the Federation of Canadian Artists meeting on February 16. That evening I will be sharing my process as well as reading a bit from my book and was asked to bring a few copies of the book for sale.
I have been a member of the national Vancouver branch of the FCA since I began painting professionally because I had learned that Lawren Harris, my favorite member of the Group of Seven, was an initiator of the Federation. Throughout the years I have exhibited in Vancouver many times and was the grateful recipient of the Tinyan Chan, SFCA Award in 2006. Being a member has allowed me not only to be involved in exhibits in Vancouver, but also for my work to travel around the world to places like Germany, England and Scotland.
I believe whole-heartedly that it is important for an artist, whose life is often lived in isolation, to be involved in some sort of community whether locally or internationally. Throughout the years I have learned much from others who have travelled this path before me and have received opportunities and also that impetus to push myself and grow in my craft.
One of the things I really enjoy about working on several pieces all at once, besides the fact that so many layers of paint require more drying time, is that several paintings tend to come together around the same time, which feels so rewarding. There are times that it feels as though I'm not getting very far and then, suddenly things come together. My concern often is that I'm avoiding moving forward (which sometimes I am as beginning is so much fun) or that I am not getting anywhere (sometimes that, too, when I move from a canvas that is ready for the next step to begin another). I have so much fun with hand carved stamps and hand cut stencils and am really happy how everything came together in this 36x36 inch piece titled 'Soar'. I incorporated the symbols off the Okotoks Erratic (aka the Okotoks Big Rock - which was the impetus for name of Big Rock beer brewers) as well as the symbols found in cave drawings all over North America and Europe. I wanted to include symbols of communication on the raven as ravens are known to be messengers. I also like the idea of human beings communicating centuries ago across the ocean, using the same symbols in every region. I don't know if they meant the same things to people in different regions, but it sure makes it feel that initially we were all from the same place, wherever that may be.
here is a long history in my family of making things by hand, and quilts are definitely a huge part of that tradition. About ten years ago I decided to try my hand at it, though I didn't want to create a traditional design but rather an art quilt and, of course, I couldn't do it small...it had to be huge (it measures 72x72 inches).
I used a photograph I had taken of the Bow River near the Banff Springs Hotel to create a small painting on paper and then began creating abstracted drawings on graph paper to decide how I wanted the final quilt to appear. I coloured and cut up small sheets of paper and placed them back together, then created a full design using newsprint before cutting up the beautiful fabrics that I had found as I wanted the completed quilt to replicate a painted image.
Though my early years were spent sewing (I used to create patterns and sew my own clothes), and though I was accepted into Fashion in Toronto (never made it past Manitoba where I met my husband), I have realized that as much as I love fabric, it is not my passion. I think in this endeavor that I prefer to look at the beautiful fibre art created by others but I am glad I gave it a try.
NOTE: A huge and special thank you to Kristen Shima of Shima Studios for the lovely photos!
Over the past couple of weeks I have been working on a series of little 4x4 canvases (32 of them to be exact) and wanted to switch things up a bit. Working small is always nice as I can bring my pochade anywhere to work and though I knew I would be painting canoes, I kept thinking that a group which included a variety of images and subject would not only be interesting to view but also interesting to create. So, I split the canvases up equally and began working, not sure of the direction I would take but figuring it would come to me, which it certainly did. In the end, I ended up with 8 canoes, 8 tipis, 8 animals and 8 wildflowers, which all taps into the work I have been creating for the past few years. It seems like a fitting culmination.