Wow! I made it...52 weeks and 52 new paintings. This final one was a tough choice. I considered a prairie or rattle snake as they are numerous nearby in Drumheller and Lethbridge, considered other birds but really wanted another mammal, also considered prairie dogs because they definitely live in abundance here and really look cute popping in and out of their holes but ended up choosing a bat since we enjoy seeing them so often high in the sky on summer evenings.
I remember as a child up north learning about their ability to emit ultrasound pulses to find their way at night and also that they are not blind, but see quite well. They hibernate in caves and mountainsides throughout the winter and, in fact, it is illegal to disturb them during hibernation as they will expend all their energy trying to escape which causes their death (same with snakes). And I also remember that their 'bones' in their wings are actually fingers and that their wings are really thin skin membrane. What I love most about bats is that they eat mosquitos.
As a totem animal they signify higher awareness and keen observation. Because they are highly sensitive they are also believed to be a powerful symbol of intuition, dreams and visions. They are highly social, living with tight community ties, and so are nurturing and highly communicative.
And so this journey is complete, which is really rather bittersweet...they can all be viewed on my website at 52 WEEKS (every image is linked to its corresponding blog post so you can click on each if you want to read about the process, inspiration and animal).
This week I had the great privilege of selecting a piece by local potter Rylee Petkau...and I had the most difficult choice to make as I love all her pottery. In the end, my husband and daughter helped me select this beautiful hemp-wrapped serving bowl.
Anyone who knows me knows of my love of pottery. In the past I had my own kiln for hand-built work and assisted in a potter's studio. There is something about handmade items made of clay that is so grounding. Every handmade mug in my home is different, were selected on our travels directly from their makers, and it seems I have a new favorite daily, or a favorite for specific drinks. I love our handmade bowls, each purchased at the Empty Bowls Festival in the park every year. And I love the fact that my handmade serving bowls look just as beautiful sitting empty on my tables as they do when they are full of fruit, vegetable, pinecones or stones.
Rylee's work was featured at the library recently...you can read a little about her here.
Several months ago I had the great honour of being asked to paint two Adirondack chairs as Christmas gifts. As I began the work I faced it with trepidation and excitement as this is such a special gift for her sons. This week when I unveiled them to her, she became very emotional in a very good way and so I'll be creating another for her in spring.
Handmade gifts are so important to me and it is such a privilege to be the creator of those that are so filled with memory and meaning. It really has been awhile since I have painted portraits so many sketches went into the preparation of these. It's interesting as in the past few months I've been thinking of brushing up on portraiture, the skill that earned my entrance into art college, and immediately I was asked to paint these. I find it fascinating that often when you place an intention out there, opportunities present themselves to step forward.
I'm so glad she loves them, and seeing her emotional reaction made me tear up as well, the most precious gift an artist can receive.
My second last painting in this 52 WEEKS PROJECT is a pileated woodpecker (thank you Rose-Marie). When we spent a season in a farmhouse in Saskatchewan we had a woodpecker who visited us bright and early every morning, beating out staccato messages on the metal down spout outside our bedroom window. Believe me, there were days I wasn't so happy to see him, but one morning as my daughters and I were eating breakfast he flew into the kitchen window. I saw him lying on the ground and felt very sad for him so I put on a new pair of oven mitts which I had received for a gift and went out to check on him (I was always told not to touch a wild animal for my protection against possible germs and for his against the scent of human skin). He was lying there breathing very quickly so I lifted him, spoke softly to him and placed him out of harm's way. Slowly he regained his wits and so I went inside to watch over him and eventually he flew away. And, the next morning he was back at our down spout. I was never so happy to be awakened at dawn.
As a totem animal, woodpecker is an attention grabber and reminds us to pay attention to our body's needs. He reminds us to pay attention, to be aware. Even a dead tree is an opportunity for food and shelter, is there an idea or project you need to revive? As a communicator, he also reminds us to remain mindful of not only our body but our words. Consider opportunities and trust your own intuition.
Last summer a friend gave me this beautiful wooden Cuban cigar box and I've been uncertain of what I wanted to do with it because I knew whatever it was, it would be special. As I was looking through (playing with) the stones I've gathered over the years I knew immediately what it would become...my amulet of sorts. Because this box represents a type of medicine bundle, I knew I would add a tipi to it. The shapes and symbols around it are mainly aesthetic but the little images of people at the bottom represent a medicine dance or celebration to me and the four vertical stripes on the left hand side represent my family. I've also incorporated symbols from the Okotoks Big Rock.
Under the stones I've layered some dried wild sage which was given to me by an Elder and I know that at different points in my life it will include feathers, dried leaves and twigs...all of the things I gathered as a child, and I guess I still do. I've always wanted some small wild animal bones but whenever I've come upon a dead animal, I tend to bury it with a little blessing.
And, did you know that Alberta's provincial stone isn't actually a stone at all? It's petrified wood, you can view it in the photo above, second row from the right and the second stone up (cream & brown). I'm so happy with this little bundle. It will sit on bedside table and make me happy every morning and every night. Now, she's also given me a wooden CD case from Switzerland...hmmmmmmm....what next?
Yesterday I had a fabulous day, beginning with a 'Skype-date' with Calgary artist Verna Vogel. She had the wonderful idea of sketching each other while online so I ended up doing two quick sketches of her (middle right photo) - the first one on the left page was quite caricature-ish but the second I felt captured more of her kind spirit. Verna posted a bit about her experience creating Skype portraits here.
I studied portraiture years ago though I haven't done much since college but have been thinking of practicing again over the past few months. In the new year my youngest daughter has asked if I will teach her how to draw so I thought we could work on 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain' by Betty Edwards together...it's a book that I began in college, had flipped through on occasion, and really, really want to read from cover to cover so I thought this was a great opportunity and it will be fun to do a project with my daughter while improving my own drawing skills once again.
One thing I noticed when I sketch with other artists is how uniquely everyone communicates in line and shadow. It seems to be even more prominent in drawing than even in painting and when I mentioned it to Vera yesterday she said, 'Yes, just like a signature.' A perfect description.
This morning I finished packing up two parcels of art that will be shipped today. These three little tipis are on their way to Indian Head, Saskatchewan (thank you Chris!) which isn't very far at all from where our family lived for a season. I loved living in Saskatchewan. The people were interesting and kind, the landscape was beautiful as we lived near the Qu'Appelle Valley, the sunsets and sunrises were stunning, and George the Goat & Centennial the retired RCMP horse were a real treat for this girl who grew up in the north.
I have now had the pleasure of living in all three prairie provinces and though they are all in the same country, in the same region, they are all so different. Manitoba is filled with crisp, clear blue lakes...though the heat and humidity can sometimes be overwhelming. Saskatchewan has the most incredible skies, with colours ranging from yellow to pink to purple. Alberta, well this is the place that has been my home longer than anywhere else. I like the cool summer nights, warming chinooks in winter combined with the wide open prairie skies and the mountain views outside my living room window. I have the pleasure of experiencing fields, foothills and the Rocky Mountains within an hour's drive.
I grew up in northern boreal forest surrounded by lakes and rivers and now I've become rather attached to the prairies and the farming community in it. And in every place I have had the great privilege of meeting and becoming friends with many amazing people. With my community growing by leaps and bounds every year I guess I'm lucky to still have that privilege without moving.
A friend of mine is a newspaper editor and she's been telling me to frame the articles that have been published in magazines. My walls are so full already but I am learning to keep at least one piece from each series, something which I haven't always done.
Another thing I'm learning is to hang my own work in my home...something else I never used to do. An artist who was a wonderful mentor for me said that you have to live with what you create in order to grow and in order to see where you've been and where you're going. Wise advice...even though it's taken me years to follow it.
Why do we as artists often negate what we do? Why shouldn't we talk about it and be proud of our accomplishments? I never want to push myself on others and yet I'm constantly asked to share what I do, and so even in that I am learning. It's fun to not only share my experiences but to encourage others in theirs. And I am absolutely amazed by the encouragement I receive from others. Grateful beyond measure.
Several years ago I read a story which was set in an orchard in Ontario and monarch butterflies were a strong symbol throughout the novel. Wish I could remember the title or author. The butterfly is such a fragile creature and yet migrates between Canada and Mexico in spring and autumn. The migration occurs over the lifespan of up to four generations, not one individual makes the entire round trip. Their flight patterns seem to be inherited and based on the position of the sun in the sky. I wish I could remember the title or the author as I could never get this image from my mind.
As a totem animal, butterfly speaks of transformation and joy. A reminder that all of life is a dance to enjoy, a reminder to move, to accept change as growth rather than traumatic. That life is sweet and gentle if we allow it.
NOTE: I love working with librarians...the book was 'Sanctuary Line' by Jane Urquhart. :)
I believe there is value beyond measure in the practice of art. I believe that God as Creator, has created each one of us to be creative. In every world religion, creativity has been extolled in the diligence and humility of its carvers, painters, seamstresses and builders of sanctuary, of the objects within it of the places of prayer, worship and rest. Safe havens.
Even today creativity is seen in children in their sandcastles and snowmen, in colouring books and crayons. In adults who enjoy cooking, sewing, designing and planning. In work as contractors, architects and problem solvers. In healing.
This is why I believe that investing in and supporting the arts, is not only virtue but a necessity. Not only for our future leaders who will need to lead creatively but for each and every one of us.
AIRdirondack Art Project