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I have been a fan of Solomon's Seal for a very long time and though I have tried to grow it in my garden, it is just too dry for it in my neck of the woods. I'm so grateful that I get to see it in abundance on hikes through moist areas. Its Greek name, stellata, means 'star-like' and its common name is made in reference to the six-pointed star in the seal of King Solomon. As such, it was also believed to represent the star of David.
Medicinally the plant has been used as an anti-bacterial, emetic or aphrodisiac, which seem to be quite at the opposite ends of the spectrum, I think. It was also believed to remove bruises very quickly when applied as a poultice.
I always enjoy working on community projects and this one was no exception. The City of Airdrie Parks Department thought it might be a nice idea if local artists painted some of the picnic tables to add colour to our public spaces and I'm so glad they did. I decided to incorporate the crows that live in abundance in our parks. And, you know, since I have an affinity with them being the 'Crow Talker' in my family, how could I refuse?
Often, when we would picnic in Nose Creek Park, where we lived and a favorite past time, the crows would be so bold as to sit on the table and demand that we share (we didn't but oh how I wanted to!). One time we saw a table a little distance away with a lunch basket lovingly set out to be enjoyed once playground time was up. A crow slowly crept up to the table, then suddenly jumped up, opened the basket, and flew away with an entire loaf of bread before we could stop him. As shocking as it was, everyone enjoyed a good laugh, and fortunately, there were plenty of other items in the basket for lunch.
I want to give a special 'Thanks' to Airdrie Paint & Decor for the Benjamin Moore paint and to Dave at Volunteer Airdrie for coordinating this great project. And, as always, to the City of Airdrie for choosing this project. I can't wait to see them all in the parks!
The past couple of weeks I haven't been well at all so it's been nice whenever I have a bit of a lift in my spirits, to work on these small canvases. Each measures 4x4 inches but, since there are 9 pieces together, the create a nice-sized 12x12 inch painting. With these I decided to incorporate a type of zentangle drawing to the background. I've always been a doodler (labelled a 'day dreamer' in school) so this is a wonderful way to incorporate that little obsession of mine.
I really, really like the idea of working collaboratively with others and think it would be lovely to see how someone else might arrange these pieces. Mix them up and they create an abstract, put them in order and there's a lovely image, much like a Totem animal. I even enjoy how they look piled up. Very pretty.
Last weekend was a busy one, beginning with Teens After Hours on Friday evening. We painted the windows of the library and also a Little Library to share books in the community. The greatest part, for me, about the evening was that the kids got to decide on the designs and created them on their own with very little guidance from me. Occasionally they put me to work but mostly I just gave a little direction and cleaned paintbrushes. And I think they did an excellent job!
Printmaking with Michelle Wiebe
Painting Portraits with Tracy Laxten
I just realized that I forgot to post last month's art workshop at the library which was a fantastic printmaking class with Michelle Wiebe. The kids worked on Styrofoam but the teens and adults actually got to try out lino printmaking. The workshop this month was portrait painting by self-taught artist Tracy Laxten. It was hard to believe that this was her first workshop as she was so patient and encouraging. The library is so fortunate for financial support received for our programs as we have been able to purchase great easels, canvases and printmaking tools among other great supplies, and can offer the workshops for a minimal $4 each. The best part is how much fun everyone has!
I'm so excited to have completed 47 paintings in this year's 52 WEEK project, you can see previous year-long projects here and here. As much as I love having a goal and working towards it, learning so much along the way, there are also many weeks that I wish I didn't have to do anything. But to see the work all together is always exciting, especially since I tend to place them in my closet as I work. This fall has been especially busy for me at the library with so many events and workshops that it's been quite difficult. And yet, when I finally get down to the work I enjoy myself immensely.
This week I chose the yucca, which is also known as soapwort. It is a member of the lily family (one of my favorite flowers) and, to me looks similar to fritillaria which I find absolutely beautiful in its minute form. This plant grows in deserts so it is only found in the Milk River region of Alberta, a beautiful are that my daughter attends university., My parents also grew up in a desert in South America and ate the root of the yucca plant (which is much like potato) though the flowers on it looked quite different. It has been used to treat ailments from arthritis to high cholesterol but its effectiveness is still being studied.
Lately I've been working back & forth between the large canvases I'm preparing for galleries to smaller pieces, like these 8x10 canoes & tipis. Oddly enough, typically I've created more smaller tipis so this was a bit of a move up (though I have completed a few that measured 36x48) and with the canoes I wanted to celebrate Isaac Bignell and Benjamin Chee Chee as theirs was the first artwork I was exposed to as a child in the north. I've enjoyed working on these so much that I think I may have to expand on them and create larger works with the same feeling.
As an artist, I am always inspired by those who have inspired me in the past but also but the things I've seen and learned in my lifetime. I'm not certain where my love of colour came from, but I do know that whenever my palette includes sienna, umber, black, or beige-like colours I become disinterested. I find that the artwork I'm drawn to is similar, utilizing more vibrant, pure colour. In the beginning, I received a few suggestions to tone the colour palette down, but though I tried, I just couldn't do it. Thankfully there are others in this world that feel as passionate about colour as I do.
NOTE: For those who have asked, I am so pleased to share that they will soon be available through Delree's Native Art Gallery.
One of my favorite things about having a designated studio space is that I can make a mess and leave it. I'm quite particular about things being put back in their place once they've been used and yet that doesn't necessarily happen in my studio. There is something so beautiful to me about a creative mess...especially when it involves glorious paint. I love looking at work in progress and spreading out on the table and floor. It triggers ideas and often solutions to problems suddenly present themselves.
I've been working on a few larger canvases but they have been a struggle of late. Along with feeling under the weather for awhile I felt I was getting nowhere so I decided to change it up and work smaller once again. I am always amazed how that resolves so many things for me. That and looking at art supplies as I question my medium of choice...should I try oil again? how about watercolour? maybe a different acrylic? or maybe jewellery design....again? And yet when I just reduce the size of my canvas, I don't need anything else as I become inspired and motivated all over again. It really is a miracle cure.
I know I say this often, but I absolutely love my pochade. It's great for travelling, painting away from home and even painting at home as I can move around from living room to kitchen to patio. I always have it ready with primary colours (ultramarine blue, hansa yellow medium, and napthol red) along with titanium white and then I like to throw a couple of fun colours in the box - like dioxazine purple and alizarin crimson. Along with paint, I always have a spray bottle ready to wet my paints or canvas and a stay-wet palette. I also carry a set of inexpensive brushes, a rag and brush washer, and when travelling I carry a pen and small sketchbook either in the box or in my purse.
If you're interested in my pochade, it is the 6x8 Thumbox by Guerilla Painter. It's no longer made as deep as mine so you may have to invest in a smaller brush washer (or collapsible one) but that also means it would be a bit lighter, too. It is also available smaller (5x7) and larger (up to 13x17). The great thing is that there are extra pieces and replacement parts available and I like that I can use it on a tabletop (mine has rubber feet), attached to a tripod (with a tripod mount), on my lap or in my arms while standing (it has a great thumb hole at the bottom. I use mine to paint 4x4 to 8x10 (vertically), though on occasion I do prop a larger canvas on it as well. The one similar to mine can be viewed here.
I love these Royal & Langnickel brushes and even use them when I work larger. Because I'm quite hard on bristles, I am glad I can replace them inexpensively but they do last quite awhile. I like the fact that they are smooth and hold a lot of water for smaller brushes. Also, because the handles are plastic, the ferrules never loosen like they do on wooden brushes as they expand and contract. And they fit into my pochade perfectly. They are available at many craft suppliers (including Michael's).