Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Big Ones - Part Two

May 26th, 1994   working on SOMEWHERE TO ANYWHERE   oil   combined panels 4 x 12 feet

My fascination with Mount Athabasca began in September 1992 on my first stay at the Columbia Icefield. Brewster Transportation, who operate the glacier tours there, generously gifted week long stays (in the as yet under-utilized staff accommodation - The Ice Palace) to artists and researchers. This included accommodations and meals, asking nothing in return. Over the next seven years I had eight remarkable residencies there. Certainly the most electric of them was in August 1993 when Katherine Lipsett, curator of art at the Whyte Museum, Banff, invited ten artists to spend a week together. In a summer of rain this was the only clear, beautiful week. The expedition was an opportunity to create plein air works and inspired studio paintings for a grand exhibition, REFRAMING THE LANDSCAPE held at the museum, June 4th to September 5th, 1994.  

Competition ran high both on the expedition and in the studio. My goal was to create the largest studio piece and, although it didn't guarantee me centre stage placement in the exhibition, I succeeded. SOMEWHERE TO ANYWHERE was painted in 14 days on my first residency at the Banff Centre's Leighton Artists Colony. In addition, I also created the bulk of the paintings for a solo show. On May 14th, at New Image Gallery, Calgary, ALICE IN BADLAND opened - right in the middle of my residency,.

SOMEWHERE, MOUNT ATHABASCA   left panel of diptych   oil   4 x 6 feet

ANYWHERE - MOUNT ANDROMEDA   right panel of diptych   oil   4 x 6 feet 

1994 was a year of exceptional thrills. I was back to the Icefield for a week in June. In July I realized a dream by climbing (it was actually a very long walk up the 5000 foot elevation gain) to summit Mount Athabasca. It was a summer/autumn of other bagged peaks, several trips into Lake O'Hara and my first trip to Mount Assiniboine. We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in September and the Mountain Avens Gallery, Canmore, hosted MOUNTAIN INTIMACY, another solo show in November. But the crowning glory came December 30th the day we took my diptych into Calgary and waited for a decision. A Calgary art placement firm had recruited it along with paintings by David Pugh (1946 - 1994) Alan Collier (1911 - 1990) and my former art teacher Doris McCarthy (1910 -2010). It could have been that mine was the largest or that as the junior artist it was priced well below the others, but I prefer to think it was the painting itself and how it filled the boardroom that prompted Alberta Energy Company to select SOMEWHERE TO ANYWHERE. Imagine my delight! 

Snapshots from the Whyte Museum artists expedition

August 3rd, 1993 -  ON THE ICE - Athabasca Glacier, with Barbara Milne, David More and Peter von Tiesenhausen
Members of the Columbia Icefield Expedition, August 5th, 1993 

Back Row:  David More, Red Deer, Catherine Perehudoff, Saskatoon, Carol Perehudoff, Korea,
Dan Hudson, Canmore, Peter von Tiesenhausen, Demmitt, AB, Laura Millard, Calgary
Front Row: Greg Murphy, Toronto, Michael Cameron, Banff, Barbara Milne, Calgary, and yours truly

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Big Ones - The First One

Last week, Bill and I had a wonderful time staying with a recently, re-acquainted friend from our past.  In a lovingly restored log cabin Wendy lives right beneath the beautiful Livingstone Range in southwestern Alberta (see the photo essay here). Being there presented me with the opportunity to seek out the site of one of my large canvases; and that is what prompts me to tell the story of my Big Ones.

PEARY the CARIBOU   1993 oil   5 x 7 feet

At the time I was asked to do this prestigious commission I had never painted anything larger than 2 x 3 feet. The prospect had me somewhat terrified. I had to remind myself that I'd been painting for 25 years. Other than the fact that I didn't have a work space big enough, surely it couldn't be that much more difficult to go that big? 

Our then neighbours, Pat and Baiba Morrow, were generous in providing me with resource material from their extensive slide collections and their time spent with the caribou in Canada's north. 

Being that it was only open at weekends the Canmore Artists and Artisans Guild graciously permitted me to work, mid week, in the gallery space they occupied at that time.

Signing PEARY the CARIBOU, April 16th, 1993

Sadly, I painted over the original maquette.  It originally had a blue sky; I had painted the scale model in the way I envisioned Carl Runguis would have. To please the designer, I had to change that; he insisted that the sky match the colours of the lobby decor.

The maquette with a blue and then peach sky,   oil 15" x 21",   it remains in my collection 

PEARY the CARIBOU installed in the lobby of the Banff Caribou Lodge, April 26th, 1993

It amazed me that I completed the canvas in 21 days, And, other than working with the designer, it wasn't really difficult at all. In fact it was exhilarating! And thus was born my desire to create more, large canvases.

Less than a year later I would bite off the biggest painting I've ever done. Stay tuned for part two ... 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Long Time Ago ...

... in a land far away ... but, this is no fairy tale. It has taken years for me to muster the courage to publicly let this skeleton out of my closet!

Painting in the light of the only window in our one-room flat, summer 1970

On September 13th, 1969, Bill and I were married and the following day we promptly ran away from home. With one-way air fares and for three glorious months (until the money ran out) we had an absolute blast touring Europe in the "Sleek Machine" an old Renault we purchased in Germany ... that's it I am leaning against in a photo below. Speaking only English we had but one choice for survival. Fate took us to Brighton where several months into our almost one-year stay in England we both quit our day jobs to concentrate on where the real money came from ...

My art on Bayswater Road, London, summer 1970

Since the 1960s, on Sundays, the railings along the north side of Hyde Park have displayed art for sale. In my time it was a complete free-for-all but shortly afterwards the licencing of spaces came into effect and today you must apply for a "pitch". 

John Branch (grey hair) - sure would like to find him!

We have to thank Stuart Ring for introducing us to John Branch who was not a painter himself (although he would pretend to be if it was going to cinch a sale) but a brilliant entrepreneur/salesman. He would arrive before dawn to secure his own "gallery row" and, for a pound per person per week, he'd save spaces for upwards of a dozen people, ourselves included. It was money well spent for he was terribly effective at running off interlopers!

Yours truly and her art (all but the red one - scroll down for that story!)

Me at the end of a particularly good Sunday

Look closely at these hot sellers

Yup, most of my paintings were on velvet! The Life Guards, Beefeaters and Busbys sold well, as did the wild cats, puppies, flowers and an occasional nude ... but outselling them all were my domestic kittens!

The only painting I kept - Siamese Kitten oil 10" x 8" 

Up until this point I'd been a commercial artist but it was here, on Bayswater Road, that my fine art career was launched. We'd drive to London, and back home to Brighton, every Sunday. Ultimately the sales from these Sundays enabled us to quit our day jobs and save the fare for our passage home. We sailed October 3rd to 10th, 1970 aboard the Empress of Canada, a Canadian Pacific ship. The on board, prearranged display of my paintings was my one and only sell-out, solo exhibition.

Facts and figures;
 21 Sundays from May 10th to September 27th, 1970
A total of 234 paintings sold = 
863 pounds - average weekly sales 41 pounds
Our day jobs paid 10 pounds/week (
me) and 25 pounds/week (Bill) 
Our rent was 5 pounds/week
At the time a pound equaled $2.50

Bill posed as though he had parked that London cab!

Our extended honeymoon (Europe, England and Bayswater Road) has left us with some of our richest memories. Like the time Bill spent an entire week painting his Red Sunset and, the very next Sunday, sold it (for 5 pounds) to Canadian girl who never suspected we weren't British!

Everyone is an artist ... if only they'd try!

For a very short time after returning to Canada I painted a few more "velvets". Below are the two I still possess; they're stashed in a box, in the basement.

Lynx oil 14" x 18"

Ocelot oil 14" x 18"

Some of you will be appalled.  Some of you may say kudos that I did what a gal has to do.  I'm just grateful I never used glitter!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Playing with Win

The Win Dinn workshop, here in Claresholm, last month has liberated me from classical painting and I'm completely sold on exploring the endless possibilities that mixed media offers.  So, when Bill asked me what I would like to tack on to our recent B.C. family camping weekend, without hesitation, I said "To visit Win!"    

In Win's glorious, naturally lit, Creston studio

Although Win did most of the sharing, we pooled our toys and materials as we stormed her studio, unleashed and unrestrained, and we poured our hearts into two days of work/play.  We turned out piece after piece of mixed media delights; most of them unfinished!

Win's RED HOT SUNSHINE created on a palette paper transfer with a piece of metallic, red leafing and rubber stamps

Gel textures, fusible fibers and a rubber stamp make up my
MEDIEVAL TANGLE   10.5" x 6.5"

Fabulous colour and texture here ... I'm not sure what Win did to get this!
IT LOOKS GREEK TO ME!   9.5" x 6.5"
I brushed, sprayed, splattered and dabbed colour before stamping the scroll panel.
The shimmery fusible fibers are more golden in real life  

In our wander of the town of Creston I saw where the Dinn's PAINTED TURTLE GALLERY used to be.  The sign remains even though there is a very different shop located there now.     

I think this retired gallery owner is a happier gal for the change!

Win encouraged me to make a cheesecloth transfer and the following morning, when it was dry, I peeled the cloth away and was thrilled with the effect.  I love how mixed media takes you on a journey.  With the addition of a couple of palette paper transfers and using a floral stamp, which looked to me like sea urchins, the feel of being underwater was indisputable.  And there just happened to be the perfect space for the turtle stamp. A little hand colouring (doodling) then some embellishments and here is the result ...  

I'D LIKE TO BE UNDER THE SEA   8.5" x 13.5"

Win designed the turtle logo and had a rubber stamp made of it.  I wanted her to have this piece as a memento of her gallery and of me in her studio.  Now that I am home I see that the turtle needs a red eye.  And so, in Photoshop, I gave it one and I've asked Win to "colour it in" on the actual piece.  

Here we are at the end of day two ... the 9-hour day ... completely giddy, cross eyed, exhausted and deliriously happy

To see the entire photo essay of us sharing Win's studio please click here.