My mom was born on January 21, 1939 in High River, Alberta. She was an only child and had an incredibly close relationship with both her parents. She always tells me she had a wonderful childhood. She was raised on a farm. She had many chores to do. Her parents had milk cows and one of my mom’s jobs was to hand turn the separator. This separated the cream from the milk. She was thankful she did not have to collect the eggs as they had many chickens. She showed me a picture of my smiling grandfather carrying to large egg baskets brimming with eggs. My mom was very close to her dad. He was a very happy man, who always smiled and whistled. My mom adored him even when he teased her. She was also very close to her mom. The three of them were hardly ever apart. Even thought my mom had chores such as making the beds and preparing the breakfast everyday, she also had great fun on the farm. She had a cat, dog, and a horse. She would regularly dress up her dog and put him in her doll carriage. She taught her horse to do tricks too. She was lucky to own a camera. She captured her childhood in these pictures. My mom met my dad in Grade 11. After they graduated, they both attended SAIT. My mom took “Dress Making and Design”. It was a 2-year program, but sadly so many people dropped out that they did not offer the second year. However, she has a great talent for sewing and still enjoys creating many quilting projects today. My parents were married in December of 1959. My mom worked in hotels and was a nanny while my dad finished his drafting course at SAIT. While they were still in Calgary, they had their son Kevin. Shortly after Kevin was born, they moved to Rocky. Here they had three more children. My mom stayed home during my childhood and I am grateful for that. She worked hard at keeping the house and making the meals on a small budget. She was a great mom and offered us a great childhood. She eventually went back to college and earned her Early Childhood Education certificate. She was in her late 40's when she did this and I admire her greatly for her accomplishment. She worked in several day cares until she was finally able to retire. She enjoys her life at home. She keeps busy with her 3 grandchildren. I admire her for her positive attitude and this keeps her young well at heart and you would never guess she is 81!
~ Colleen Mckenzie
Things have changed so quickly with the worldwide Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. We were so glad to move my daughter back home this week, though it was unexpected as she works on the university campus and was going to stay through the summer. I'm glad to have one of my girls home. But it does mean changes for us as having three adults living and working at home requires a bit of a shift, so my studio is being repainted for her so that she can have her own personal space away from us with her own bathroom, My muscles are already sore from carrying so much and doing all this extra work, but the exercise is actually a good thing. So, by next week sometime I should have a new space which will be closer to the kitchen, never a bad thing, and better light from the larger south facing window. Plus we had decorated it years ago and I think it's such a pretty space. This is nothing new...the university years have always required annual adjustments. I hope people stay well and that life will return to a semblance of normal soon...for everyone.
The past while I have focused on studying, reading, knitting, and painting as well as spending time with family. As difficult as this time has been in the world, I have been so grateful to be able to slow down and do the things that bring me peace and calm. I can't help but think of the families who have been directly affected by this and, as I did on 9/11, I try to remain present by making things with my hands, by painting (for me) and baking (for my family). It can be hard to be grateful in times like these, but I am trying to remember to document everything I am thankful for each and every day.
The other night I was able to look at the full Moon, aka Super Worm Moon (the Earth warms & Earth worms reappear), with binoculars & for the first time I saw a lunar crater (Tycho) and valleys (they look like white lines extending from the lunar basin). In Astronomy I have learned a few fun facts about the Moon:
* a Super Moon occurs when it orbits closest to the Earth as it revolves around Earth in an elliptical shape, not a circle
* it always faces us in the same direction due to gravity
* it causes tidal buldges that the Earth rotates into
* it waxes ('grows' to full Moon) and wanes ('shrinks' to new Moon) due to sunlight illuminating different portions of the side we see
* it takes 27.3 days to orbit the Earth but 29.5 days to complete a phase of lunar cycles
* the Moon's shadow causes a solar eclipse while the Earth's shadow causes a lunar eclipse
My artist's toolkit is fairly minimal as I tend to prefer to work with acrylic paint on canvas. My paint of choice is the Liquitex Heavy Body but I have incorporated a few Jane Davenport colours for the portraits...I'm really enjoying the tones and like the flatness of them, especially when working in altered books. Otherwise, the supplies I use are usually Liquitex as I've worked with them for years so I'm very familiar with them and they are easy for me to access where I live.
As far as gesso, I lean towards white but on occasion I love the way colours pop against the black. It's also fantastic when I work on altered books as I can black out any of the print if I want. The gloss medium & varnish are fantastic to use as a bonding agent (like glue), to make paints thinner and more transparent (I also add a bit of water) as well as finishing paintings. The heavy gel medium is something I also use with altered books as it bonds absolutely everything...it even works in a pinch around the house. And, the final product that I'm not the most comfortable with because it's in a spray can which isn't great for our environment but works really well to complete paintings is Krylon Spray Varnish. It leaves just a light protective sheen on the finished paintings which I prefer over a heavy coat of varnish.
Most of the time these products tend to be used on my altered books (except the varnishes) but I do occasionally like to use the different colours of gesso on a ground, which is particularly necessary when I stretch my own canvas.
Grandma (I.M. Carpenter) - my best friend!
Your wit, sass, and love helped make me confident and strong.
Your humour and laughter were contagious. Thankfully you shared enough of it, you taught me how to be confident, when to speak up, and not to take life too seriously.
The sass you dealt at what seemed to be a perfect time, every time, helped guide me too. When someone was out of line, or something was just not right, you’d make it known in a stern, yet playful way.
Your unconditional love brought family and friends together. Your love for your children, your husband, your friends, a nice garden, a good laugh, a delicious meal, a clean house, a house full of people, a warm cup of tea, a long road trip, and your grandchildren, showed me what love truly is.
I love you, and the woman you helped shape me into today. Thanks to your being, I am comfortable being my own “best friend”- you were enough, and I am enough. Thank you, Babe!
~ Chelsie Dowler
I shared a look into my process on Instagram and thought I should share it here, too:
I'm often asked about my process and there really is a method to my madness. Whenever I work in a series (which tends to happen most of the time), I like to work on 2-3 pieces at a time. This gives the work drying/curing time between the layers and gives me time to process what I'm working on and consider the direction I want it to go (ie. the bottom 2 paintings in progress on the wall behind me).
Everything begins by adding colour & pattern to a white canvas...I've always been a bit intimidated by blank space. This is where I get to have a lot of fun with brayers, brushes an a airbrush.
Next, I add an image, whether that is by drawing using white or blue paint or a paint pen directly onto the colourful canvas. This is followed by adding shadows...my favourite colours to use at this stage are prussian or pthalo blue, pthalo green, dioxazine purple, alizarin crimson or a combination of those (occasionally I add burnt umber to the mix).
This is followed by layers of highlights, midtones & shadows. Throughout this process I hang the work to live with & look at for awhile. This is the stage where it often looks quite flat until more opaque & transparent layers are added. Then, when I've finally decided that I've done enough, I build up my courage & share it.
It really helps me to work in series so that I can compare & contrast pieces and take time to consider what else might make a difference in the finished work.
I have had a very minimalist wardrobe for many years, which means I only have one pair of heels...but I do love shoes! When I was in high school I wore high heels and dresses almost daily, so in my little art 'studio' (my teacher created a nice space for me in the storage room) I would create a still life with whatever was around me, and that often included my shoes.
I've been wanting to paint shoes again for quite some time, so I decided to set up my Calvin Kleins and paint them different colours (they are navy). I've been having fun with this, plus it goes well with all of the portrait and fashion paintings I've been creating these past few years. While I've been painting, the 1980s controversial advertisement with a very young Brooke Shields keeps coming to mind..."Nothing gets between me and my Calvins."
She was born in 1939 - on the day that Canada joined Britain in the Second World War. Growing up in small farming communities in southern Alberta she got her teaching certification at the University of Alberta in the early 60's and then began teaching high school. Once she had children, she continued to teach as a substitute teacher at elementary schools in Lethbridge. Teaching is in the blood of the family, her mother, Beth Benson, was a lifelong elementary teacher, her daughter, Pam, became a special education teacher, and her granddaughter, Ashlyn, is now teaching elementary school in Minnesota. Her tenacity and strength is a source of wonder for her family and friends -- she has survived inoperable brain cancer, and following that, a brain aneurysm. She's slowed down since then but continues to be a marvel of recovery and life.
~ Kevin Konynenbelt
AIRdirondack Art Project
Alberta (above) +