Monday, April 11, 2016

My Warrior Dog - Cheyenne

Each April I feel a little sad, as I recall saying good-bye to Cheyenne 6 years ago.
This year, instead of reliving the sadness, I am going to tell you how great he was.

I rescued Cheyenne from the Regina Humane Society in Sept. 2000. He was 6 months old and had been locked up for the first 6 months of his life. He was a scared little boy. Driving back from Regina to my acreage he stayed curled up and whimpered the whole trip. I thought "Oh boy, what have I gotten myself into?"

I put him in the sunroom which was to be his bedroom. He had his own full sized couch, food and water and lots of windows. The next morning, when I looked at my dog, I saw a total transformation. He was alert, curious and full of joy. Taking him outside the first few days was quite funny. It was all new to him. He was curious about butterflies, he hopped the hills chasing grasshoppers and literally smelled the flowers.  Look out for the bees!

I quickly became aware of what a gift Cheyenne was. His intelligence was none that I had ever experienced with a dog before. I would tell him something once or twice and he just GOT IT. I didn't train him. He just knew. He picked up on the slightest nuances, often knowing what I was going to do - before I did. He had an old soul of a re-incarnated swami.

We became quite the team in the Qu'Appelle Valley. My dog was always with me. His job was to protect. I had no problem leaving my vehicle unlocked with my purse in it, as long as Cheyenne was there. You know that old Peter Sellers movie where they say "Does your dog bit?" "Yes, my dog does bite - if he doesn't know you." As soon as I would tell him "It's O.K." then he would relax.

He quickly warmed the heart of my mother, who would say "No dogs allowed in the house. O.K. maybe he can stay in the porch. " Next thing you know, he was in the kitchen and it didn't take long till he was stretched out on the living room carpet doing some doggie yoga moves. "But don't tell the others", mom would say. I recall one Christmas when there were three dogs bounding across the furniture in the living room, and my mother just threw her arms in the air and laughed.

He was also the avenger of all things unjust. If a neighbourhood dog was getting picked on by another dog, he would quickly take down the bully. He also did his best to keep the coyotes off the property, often chasing them down the road. Cows were allowed only on the other side of the fence.

When I went to Mexico for a month and left him at the farm, I must say I was a bit concerned. My nephews were young and I feared that he might bite them if they got too rough. I obviously had nothing to worry about, as Cheyenne had such a gentle side to him.

My neighbours Ken and Irene absolutely LOVED Cheyenne and he loved them too. On another trip to Mexico I left Cheyenne with them for a few weeks. On my return, I went to pick him up and Irene said "I hope you don't mind, but since it was his last night with us, we gave him a burger for dinner and ice cream for dessert." No I didn't mind. There was a bit of a hesitation from Cheyenne when I told him it was time to go home. He was probably thinking, "Hm, maybe I could just stay one more night?"

Cheyenne got cancer. When I had to say goodbye to my beautiful dog, it was one of the hardest things I have had to do. You may say that I rescued Cheyenne - but in truth he rescued Me.

Thanks Cheyenne!

(oh dear, and now I am starting to cry).

Till Next Time ...
From the Prairies, to the West Coast and Beyond...

Monday, April 4, 2016

12 Steps - The Art of Packaging ART

When shipping artwork, I like to go above and beyond when it comes to the packaging. Perhaps it comes from my government employee years of working in the mail room. I like to ensure that the artwork will arrive safely.

Here are my 12 easy steps in the "Art of Packaging."

 1) When packaging acrylic paintings, I always place Reynolds parchment paper on the top side of the paintings. This gives a layer between it and the cardboard, without sticking. (must be Reynolds as it is the only one that I know of that contains silicone)

 2) Cut a sheet of cardboard the same size as the painting, and place this on top of the first painting.

 3) In this case, the second painting is smaller then the first, but the same applies. First Reynolds parchment, then the artwork goes front to front on top of the larger painting. I always like to send a few cards of the image, plus my contact information placed in a plastic sleeve at the back of the painting. It's a great marketing practice.

 4) I have rolls of plastic that I wrap around both paintings, making them nice and secure.

 5) I find a box that is slightly larger then the biggest piece. If the box is oversize you will need to cut it down, which is what I've done. You want to have at least an inch on all sides of the paintings. Do a rough pack for positioning and height.

 6) Cut a piece of cardboard to fit snugly on top of the paintings for protection. You don't want to have any wiggle room.

 7) Measure the distance from the top of the cardboard (step # 6)  to the top of the flap. Mark with a pen. This will help you figure out your fold line to create the box. As Norm on This Old House would say, measure twice and cut once.

 8) Remove the paintings from the box. With a crochet hook, and ruler, I make a score line around all four sides of the inside of the box.With an exacto knife carefully cut down the corner, to the score line.

 9) Carefully fold in all sides of the box. You are almost done.

 10) Place the paintings back in the box. Put the packing around the sides. Remember to place the cardboard on top of that.

11) Fold in the two end pieces first. Secure with tape. Then fold in the sides. Everything should be nice and tight. Don't spare on the tape. I like to go at least twice around the entire box with tape going over the label. Remember to tape the corners as well.

12) Last but not least, I add some bright fragile stickers. This package is ready to go to the post office for shipping, and insurance. Any questions?

Till Next Time ...
From the Prairies, to the West Coast and Beyond...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Art of Distraction

I was off to the store to buy some mushrooms. I had requested turkey tetrazzini for supper - a tasty way of using up some of our left-over turkey.

I decided to make a pit stop first, so I pulled off the road at Nile Creek.

The view was spectacular. When I saw the magnesium blue sky, the titanium white clouds with the mountains in the background, I wanted to drop down to the ground, bow to Mother Nature and, as artist Brian Buckrell would say. "Knock off a painting." But remember I was on my way to buy mushrooms, and I didn't have any paints or canvas with me. I did have my camera! (never leave home without it)

I walked around took many shots, sat down and breathed. Nobody was there. I had this amazing spot to myself for a time. "I am so blessed to have this kind of view in my backyard." I watched the birds for a long while as they splashed and squawked about who knows what.

I stopped and picked up a piece of drift wood. I took more photos, squished through the sand, turned over a sea shell...and then remembered "Mushrooms!" Oh ya, I was suppose to go to the store.

It's very easy for me to get diverted off my original course, especially when you live on beautiful Vancouver Island. The Art of Distraction is everywhere!

Yes, I did get the store, I did buy some mushrooms and the tettrazzina that night was delicious!!!

Till Next Time ...
From the Prairies, to the West Coast and Beyond...

Friday, March 25, 2016

Hosting a Workshop

I absolutely love hosting and facilitating painting workshops.

A few years ago, as part of our Island Arts Magazine services, we decided to start hosting workshops. How hard could it be?

There actually is a lot of planning that goes into these events. Researching and tracking down instructors is the main issue, as some of them are booking two years in advance. We try to bring in instructors from outside our area (mid-island) on Vancouver Island. We have to confirm dates, making sure that the venue is available. Next intensive marketing comes into play. Once the registrations start coming in and the day arrives, the FUN begins.

Our March 2016 workshop was called "Flowering as an Artist" instructed by Sandy Terry, an artist from Victoria. How refreshing to paint flowers in the spring.

We limit our class size to 12 students (11 actually as the 12th spot is mine). We had a lovely group of ladies for this class.

Most of our classes run for two days on a weekend. On the morning of the first day the students are anxious to get some instruction and start putting colour to canvas. By the end of the first day, they began to tucker out. "More coffee ladies?"

I like to position myself at the back of the classroom, and watch the canvases blossom. I enjoy the chatter amongst the students, as they paint, converse, laugh and sometimes even swear – for the good of the painting of course.

After a hard day of painting, on Saturday we like to gather at the local restaurant for a bite to eat, a refreshment or two and a chance to get to know each other outside the classroom. The artists love this part of the weekend.

In this class I worked on a tiger lily and was happy to see it come to life. I was able to take it home after the weekend, and finish it off with a few more brush strokes. All signed it is now ready for my Saskatchewan exhibition this summer.

Prairie Gift, 28 x 22", acrylic on canvas

As the host of these events, I am usually exhausted on Monday. But, I love doing them, I love spending the weekend with my fellow artists and I look forward to the next workshop in a month.

Oh dear!

Till Next Time ...
From the Prairies, to the West Coast and Beyond...

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Why I Love Sundays

I've always loved Sundays.

In my younger days Sunday was usually a day off from school or work. It was a day when family and friends would gather for a nice meal. Sometimes an afternoon pick up game of baseball would be in order. Once the dishes were done, and the kitchen table cleared off, out came the cards for an evening of serious card playing. If you were lucky, you might win the pot of $2-3.

Now, all grown up, I still like tradition. Jeff enjoys cooking a nice meal on Sundays. Not that we don't have good meals throughout the week, but on Sundays he will often roast a chicken, or pot roast, complete with the fixings. We might have friends over to join us for good conversation, laughs and good food.

For me Sundays is a painting day. No matter where I am in my production schedule, I become a "Sunday Painter."

This is a commission painting that I am working on today; more Mexican sunhats.

And for some reason, a home-made latté, in a Mary Fox pottery mug, tastes much better on a Sunday.

What do you like to do to make your Sundays special?

Till Next Time ...
From the Prairies, to the West Coast and Beyond...

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

My Underwater Adventures

I have always wanted to do a painting of my underwater adventures. On a rainy west coast day, I decided to do just that.

I pulled out an envelope of underwater photos that I had compiled over the years. Some were from Mexico, Costa Rica, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos and many from the Cayman Islands (one of my favourite dive spots)

Looking at the photos took me down memory lane. It seemed like another life time ago that I started scuba diving. I achieved my open-water certification in Tobermory Ontario. It was a cold and tough weekend. At the end of the weekend I was so darn proud of myself and a certified diver.

I continued with the advanced class two weeks later. I went through that course and onto becoming a PADI rescue diver.

At last count, I had 120+ dives, under my belt; in scuba diver's lingo. I haven't done a dive in many, many years and if I did, I would surely take a refresher course first.

Perhaps that part of my life is over and if so, at least I have incredible and colourful memories of those adventures.

Till Next Time ...
From the Prairies, to the West Coast and Beyond...

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Take an Art Retreat

Last fall I was invited to attend an art retreat. Living on Vancouver Island, surrounded by beauty, we often forget about the wonder that is in our own back yard. I jumped on the idea!

Being the organizing junky that I am, before going on the retreat, I made a list of intentions.
1) Have FUN
2) meet new artists
3) don't expect end results
4) Have FUN ...

I painted and sketched and wandered around nature. As a self-directed retreat, all we had to do was  show up for meals. Sitting in the sunny meadows being one with nature, and taking a trip to the mountain tops was absolutely glorious.

I became very aware of shapes and negative space. Something clicked in my brain, as I sketched like crazy, keeping the designs simple and loose.

In the evenings, I put some of my design ideas to canvas, keeping in mind simple design and negative spaces.

By Sunday morning, I had met all my objections and ready to return home.

Spending time with like-minded folks was inspiring. Some of the best conversations I had with the other artists was often over morning coffee.

I want to remind myself to take min-retreats, whether it's just a nice walk by the beach, or an afternoon in the garden. It's good for the creative soul.

Have you been on a retreat lately?

Till Next Time ...
From the Prairies, to the West Coast and Beyond...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Simple is Best

As I mature (as opposed to getting older) I've noticed that it is the simple things that bring me the most joy.

I love it when friends pop in for coffee or tea, knowing that they are welcome anytime.

I enjoy spending time with my parents, being goofy and laughing over nothing.

It warms my heart when I receive a birthday card, thank you note or Christmas letter in the mail. Most notes these days are sent electronically so getting a card in the mail is a real treat.

I love watching a chick flick in the middle of the afternoon. It seems very decadent.

Trying on jeans and finding a pair that fits on the first try. Awesome!!

Going to bed early as you have a great book waiting for you.

Till Next Time ...
From the Prairies, to the West Coast and Beyond...

Monday, February 15, 2016

Letting Go

Over the years as my painting skills develop, I sometimes find it hard to let go of certain paintings.
Each painting reminds me of a time and place in my life, so letting go can sometimes be difficult.

What I like to do is move them onto the next stage.

With a ruler and sharp blade, I cut them off the stretcher bars and use them as table covers (placemats). That way they are still functional and take up less room in the studio.

They can be changed seasonally.

And yes, I actually do have a candy dish on my coffee table. It reminds me of my dear old aunt, who always has a full candy dish on her coffee table.

Till Next Time ...
From the Prairies, to the West Coast and Beyond...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What Brings me Joy

What is Love if not Joy?

I love to garden. Watching the flowers make their way through the earth in the spring brings me joy.
Taking a bowl out into the garden and picking fresh greens and a ripe tomatoe for a salad...that brings me joy.

Playing with my nieces and nephews...that brings me joy.

The love of creating, whether it is designing the Island Arts Magazine, or moving paint around a canvas until it emerges into an image. That brings me great joy.

Travelling... the feeling I get when I step off a plane into a new country...that brings me joy.

Spending time, sharing a meal and laughing with the ones I love...that brings me joy.

As Valentine's Day approaches, take time and remember what brings you joy and you will find love.

Till Next Time ...
From the Prairies, to the West Coast and Beyond...

LIttle Things that Make a Difference

Sometimes it's the little things that make a big difference.

This is a painting called "Fall Forest".
I painted it awhile back and was happy with it.
As time went on there was something bothering me, but I just couldn't put my finger on it.

Then all of a sudden it hit me. I was reminded of a lesson that I picked up in a Janice Robertson workshop. The background was competing with the foreground.

Just by lightening the background I believe that it is now a stronger piece. 
I also highlighted a few bits here and there.

You can see the difference with the before and after photos (keeping in mind that it was photographed at two separate times with two difference camera models.)

Experiment, and if you need to ask one of your mentors for help!
To see more of my west coast art, please visit my online gallery. 

Till Next Time ...
From the Prairies, to the West Coast and Beyond...

Sunday, February 7, 2016

And This is How It's Done

 I'd like to show you a few steps on the process that I use when painting.

The first thing, and I find this very difficult, is picking a subject. Because I work from photographs, I can (without exaggerating) waste hours going through thousands of images. Plus I can can totally change my mind from the evening to the morning.

Once I have the subject, then I look at the image and pre-paint it in my mind. As one of my instructors, Brian Buckrell always said. "Pick a battle you can win."

O.K. let's go for it...
This is my subject image: a beautiful rocky walkway among the mountain tops.

The first think I like to do is to make some marks on the canvas with a liquitex paint marker.
This gives me a sense of direction and provides some guidelines.

Next I paint a warm undercoat, mixing the acrylic paint with gloss medium. 

Time to start blocking in some colour. I like to do what I consider the easy parts.

Many thin layers of glazes, mixing paint and gloss medium are applied to the canvas. At this point, you are just putting in the time as you build up the layers.

I sometimes call this the "What was I thinking?" stage. The inner chatter starts: I'll never make this work, maybe I should paint over it. A few curse words might enter this stage of the process.

O.K. so you can give into the voices, or if you are stubborn, like me, you try to work through it.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but as long are you have learned something...then what the heck.

If you do make it through to the other side, you will see the results and be happy that you persevered.
And you will inevitably announce that "This is the best painting ever."

To see more of my paintings, please visit my online gallery.

Till Next Time ...
From the Prairies, to the West Coast and Beyond...