From Canola to Art

Yellow canola fields here are a revelation! I remember watching the first episode of the British version of detective show Wallander, featuring vast fields of electric yellow against a brilliant blue sky, not knowing what the crop was.

Well – canola! Apparently the fields are only yellow like this for a few weeks before harvest. I took these pictures of the fields along the Montney Road north of here, on the way to an art day at Lorna’s farm overlooking the Montney valley.

During the summer the Flying Colours Art Group does a lot of plein air painting and Lorna invited us to her hacienda and farm in Montney to see her little piggies and paint. Their property is on the crest of a hill and below is the view from her gorgeous front veranda, a panorama out over the Montney Valley. The three photos below are a panorama of the valley from Lorna’s veranda, a large porch that surrounds the hilltop house on three sides.

Lorna and her partner are getting out of farming, so they rent out their fields; right now the fields are in peas; this is the brighter green you can see behind the line of spruce trees. They still have some pigs, though, and we all were treated to an inspection of the pigpen and piggies as she fed them. Below some of our group traipsing across the field to the pen.

And the pictures below show the hungry critters at the trough.

Here Lorna and Miep are checking them out more closely.

Here is a photo of the garden area around the house, with the potable water tank (the water is trucked in) surrounded by pink flowers.

Along with art, we consumed a lovely lunch provided by the group, most of whom made their contributions – wonderful food!

These pictures of me in action on the veranda were taken by Miep.

As were the photos below of Lorna and Sasha on the trampoline and the piggies in their pen enjoying a mud bath.

When I saw these guys, I was momentarily amazed at the size of their ears, but then I remembered the pigs ear treats that Brubin used to consume …

After enjoying our time with the pigs, we set up shop on the veranda overlooking the valley to draw, paint, and carve on what was a lovely sunny summery day. Ken, a retired school administrator and teacher, has taken up relief carving and works on wildlife images.

Most of the others favour landscape; below Diana is giving her plein air kit a workout.

Sandy specialises in landscape and was sketching the valley in preparation for an acrylic on black canvas painting that she later completed in the Gallery when she was Artist-in-Residence.

Round hay bales are everywhere on the hills here, and more pictures of the brilliant yellow canola fields on the drive back to town. I could not resist stopping every once and a while to document this vision.

Back at the Gallery, our second artist-in-residence Sandy spent two afternoons painting and interacting with visitors. Here she enjoys a visit with Audrey Bodnar, one of the pioneering painters in the area who has been involved in the arts her entire life. Now 92, Audrey is back in FSJ after many years down in Kelowna and interested in getting back into painting.

Painting in acrylic on black canvas is one of Sandy’s trademarks and she very generously showed Audrey and others how it was done.

Below is the painting she is executing from the sketches done from Lorna’s veranda.

She managed to almost complete two paintings while in the gallery, the landscape from the deck of Lorna’s house, and a 12 x 12 inch sunset-scape, pictured below. Sandy is going to give a workshop on this painting style at the Cultural Centre this Fall.

Ty and I joined Sandra, Sharla, and others for a birthday BBQ in Sharla’s backyard, where we sampled steak and ribs, and the joys of patting Sharla’s old tomcat. (Ty & I are both missing our animal family)

 

On a variable-weather Sunday a group of us headed out to Beaverlodge, Alberta (about 2.5 hours east from here) for the Euphemia McNaught Homestead Festival, a day of art, food, music and more at Euphemia’s country estate. Before coming up here I had never heard of either Beaverlodge or Euphemia McNaught but Euphemia painted with the Group of Seven and left her farm and all its buildings to the Province to be restored and kept as a place for arts and culture events. Below is her painting studio which Miep, Charlie, and Mary set up to display prints.

Lorna, Mary, and I had a table in the sun to display prints and printmaking paraphernalia.

Below is my end of the table with a couple of lino and wood blocks and some mixed media works.

Other artists were there, too, including Dan Arberry, a painter from Grande Prairie, who chats below with Irene, Lorna, and Mary.

Along with art was an owl; a wildlife officer brought his barred owl to the Festival; she only has one wing so can’t be returned to the wild but what a beautiful bird. Lots of people were very interested in her.

Another fun part of the day was riding in the old homestead wagon out to the lake on the property, where a group of folks had fundraised to build a boardwalk and bird-viewing blind.

We rolled slowly through the hay fields, drawn by two large horses.

The boardwalk travels out over the wetlands and culminates in a viewing platform, from which one can see, if lucky, many varieties of waterfowl, dragonflies, butterflies, and … mosquitoes.

Two telescopes have been donated and people took turns gazing with them out over the lake beyond.

I saw a Bohemian Waxwing, the yellow and black bird below, and was able to get a couple of pictures of it.

Later on in the afternoon the clouds rolled in, the wind came up and, seeing rain approaching in the distance, we rolled back to town. Below is a view of Dawson Creek and fields from the truck bypass road.

And a view of the Peace River Valley coming down the highway into Taylor, about 20 km from FSJ.

The landscaping around our neck of the woods is slowly, very slowly, coming together, as is the elementary school being built around the corner from us.

Another day, another trip into the countryside: Sandra invited us to come along on a fishing trip and visit to her property at Upper Halfway, a remote valley about 2.5 hours north along the Alaska Highway – here’s a view from somewhere along the way.

Below is the Halfway River that comes into the Peace down by Hudson’s Hope at Bear Flats.

While we waited to rendezvous with other members of our party, we took a walk through one of the recreation areas up here; Ty points out a board nailed onto two trees for campers to put their food out of the way of bears.

Sandra’s old dog Kaiser enjoyed snapping at the river’s waves.

After cruising along through valleys, fields, and woodland we arrived at the property which Sandra had described as having a “cabin”. I imagined a tiny very rustic wooden shack … well, this cabin was an enormous fully-furnished log house with two smaller outbuildings. The furnishings included quite a few animal heads on the walls.

Atfer unpacking our gear, we drove through the fields down to the river where Ty and Heinz set up shop to fish while the rest of us hiked through the fields.

Sandra has given this property to her four children and their kids: it is 161 acres of fields and pasture along the Halfway river. Below Gus the dog, Sharla, Jane and Sandra walk through one of the pastures, heading south-east. Long grasses and tiny flowers cover the ground here; poor old Gus was just about able to see over them.

Lots of goldenrod plants here, very attractive to these black and white butterflies.

The old RV in the pasture below was used as a game blind, where hunters could set up shop hidden from the various animals that come through here.

Below Sharla carries her container of bear spray, very prudent considering the bear skat evident in the fields.

Along with flowers, the fields have wild strawberries, tiny and delicious red berries almost hidden under the plants’ leaves.

Amazingly, to me, the guys did catch some kind of river trout which they BBQ’d for lunch.

After a lovely lunch we cruised back towards the highway, making one additional turnoff to a riverfront property somewhere south west along a gravel oil road to visit one of Jane’s friends and see her food garden. This property, in the back of beyond as far as I can see, used to be used as an oil and gas camp, its flat field a former air strip for small planes and helicopters.

Marcia works this garden everyday, giving its produce away to charities such as the SPCA.

Below is a picture of the area that was formerly an airstrip.

While there, we took a walk around the perimeter of the place, stopping to check out the wildlife viewing platform that Marcia and her partner have built.

It looks like a tree-fort but is actually quite a large space from which to see out over the fields and trees.

In the trees below we saw a grouse and two babies.

Tiny pink and purple flowers carpet the area. Being an urban character as I am, the feeling I get from being out here in what I consider to be an extremely remote area is a bit of anxiety. Not sure whether it’s a kind of agoraphobia or claustrophia – maybe both!

Back in town, Irene Gut, an encaustic artist originally from Switzerland but here in northern BC for about 28 years, was our Artist-in-Residence, letting people in on the magic of painting with wax.

She demonstrated how she creates works with a hot iron, cubes of beeswax, and specially prepared paper, melting the wax on the iron’s surface, then running it over the surface of the paper, then scribing into it or using paper to make textures in it. She is making a Swiss mountainscape triptych at the moment.

Our weather has been very variable this month, from very hot, dry and sunny, to monsoon-like downpours and lightning storms, to dust storms in which we have to run to close all the windows so the soft sand particles do not settle themselves on every surface, adding to the already dusty ambience in our home.

But the other evening we enjoyed a lovely mellow evening in the garden at Linda and Rick’s Charlie Lake abode, dining Tuscan-style in the garden.

Photos below are by Famous Amos: Two moose in a canola field and sunset over a canola field in northern Alberta.

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Image may contain: sky, cloud, grass, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: cloud, sky, twilight, outdoor and nature

See more of my photos here.

Gallery-Going and Walking in July

On a Monday day off, Sandra, Ty & I headed north to Rose Prairie for a visit to Beatton River and the countryside north of FSJ. The fields are lush and green with growing crops, including wheat and canola, the latter’s yellow plants just starting to flourish.

Although there are some large farms and ranches in this area, like the one pictured above, most of the farms are small family or hobby farms. We took a right turn somewhere out there and found ourselves on a narrow, deeply rutted dirt track through a farmer’s property leading down to the Beatton River south of where we had hiked the previous month.

All along the path were plants that I thought were Queen Anne’s Lace but turned out to be the related Cow Parsley. We parked at the top of the ridge and walked down towards the river under a canopy of aspen trees.

Sandra pointed out these cool large orange mushrooms growing at the side of the path.

A ways downhill is this very steep slope that some folks use to tobaggan down in the winter – yikes!

Wild pink roses are also plentiful in this part of the world.

Although the road was mostly clear of litter, Ty did stop to pick up some garbage on the way down to pack out.

You can see how deep the ruts are in the photo below, the result of trucks and heavier vehicles driving right down to the river.

In the background of the photo above is the ubiquitous burned-out derelict car in a field – I don’t get that. A closeup below.

Once down on the flats the woods opened up onto the river bank, dry and also scarred with narrow ruts. Apparently the “island in the stream” in the photos below never used to be here … the river and its banks are always changing according to the weather conditions.

We staked out a spot riverside to have lunch and enjoy the afternoon sun which came and went behind the clouds drifting by.

On the other side of this fast-flowing river, atop the bank, you can see where the ground is sloughing away beneath the stand of trees.

A while later we headed a bit north to the riverside property of one of Sandra’s brothers to enjoy a beer on his deck. Strangely he has some sort of odd electric golf cart stationed deckside which of course I had to try out, zipping around the property quite speedily.

This property is beautiful, many acres riverside and along the banks, with crop fields and gardens as well as untouched aspen forest. It would be fantastic for an artists’ residency in the summer …

As you know, I have been hired as the Peace Gallery North’s manager and my first order of business was to hang and open the Elizabeth Harris show. A few people were kind enough to volunteer to help in that process; below Linda is assisting in unpacking and getting the ceramics ready for display – she was also kind enough to touch up the rather battered plinths with black paint.

It took Elizabeth and I the whole day to unpack, place, and re-place the works, including painting, fabric art, ceramics, and photographs, for display.

A new project for Elizabeth, who is known for her lively and colourful animal paintings and ceramics, is the Canadiana apothecary bottle series below.

One of the guests exhibiting with Elizabeth is Catherine Nicholls, whose fabric piece detailed below I love.

Elizabeth grew up on a ranch outside Fort St John before going south to study and work and her family, who came out for the opening, still lives in the area.

It was great to see friends Sandra, Patrick, and Niki come out, on what turned out to be an incredibly stormy evening of torrential rain, thunder and lightning – a veritable summer monsoon.

Flying Colours friends Sandy, Miep, Linda, Mike and others also braved the rain to support Elizabeth’s show.

A fun part of the evening was the “Harris Singers”, Elizabeth’s family playing a round of Ian Tyson’s Canadian classic song “Four Strong Winds”, joined in by all the gallery-goers present.

Since the show was so bright and colourful, I wanted to wear something that would complement it, so out of the closet came the Turkish shalvar pants that I’d purchased in Gumusluk a few years back.

Good old Ty was recruited to play bartender, a role he does very well.

See more from the opening here.

A wonderful colour reduction woodcut workshop was held at Miep’s studio over one weekend mid-July; even though I was exhausted from working so much, I just had to take that in and got a second wind as I dove back in to the joys of printmaking. Below Sara Norquay, an artist from Edmonton, led us in cutting and printing four colour prints on Japanese Shina wood blocks.

The workshop was very well-attended, with 15 of us taking up all possible spots in the studio to create our pieces.

Although some of these folks have done lino before, I think only one or two had tried woodcuts, a slightly more difficult relief printing medium, in that the blocks are harder to carve and require sharper tools. I had unearthed my cutting tools from the depths of our garage storage unit, where they had not seen the light of day for years so of course they were dull, dull, dull. Sara was kind enough to allow us to use some of her sharp tools, so I took advantage of that.

This process involved cutting two blocks (or in this case, both sides of one block) printing them in two different colours, then cutting away more material from the same two blocks and printing another two (different) colours to complete the image.

I also cut two smaller blocks that I intended to print on parts of my image (below). I decided on the spur of the moment to do something abstract so this composition, which I entitled Energetic Radish Heart, somehow appeared at the end of my gouge.

Not too get to much into the details of this process, I will just say that it’s a bit tricky figuring out how much wood to cut away and where on each of the two blocks to get the optimum results.

Charlie decided to do a portrait piece; above you can see the image he’s working from at the bottom left and below the first block with its colours inked up, red for the eyes and blue for the top.

Mary opted for an image commemorating her RCMP daughter’s trip to Vimy Ridge this spring for the memorial: here you can see the preparatory drawing, one of the blocks, the tools, and the first two colours printed.

Below Sandy is working on a colourful bear piece, with a rainbow roll sky.

After the first day we drove out to Linda and Rick’s place at Charlie Lake for a BBQ on what turned out to be a blustery evening.

Their property is very interesting, with lots of stone structures built by Rick by hand, including rock walls, garden beds, and the combination greenhouse, alchemy lab/storage room, and guest house below.

Sculptures by Rick and Linda are dotted around the property.

They also have grape and kiwi vines growing along some of the wooden trellises that Rick has made.

Inside the greenhouse portion of the building, Linda has many different plants growing, including tropical varieties.

While we toured the property, the guys barbecued the dinner.

Our second workshop day was spent finishing up the printing of our editions of 10 colour prints; Charlie was very happy with his piece, called Zombie.

I printed my first block yellow and the second a brilliant magenta red, seen below.

Below you can see the first two colours, printed by hand on Japanese mulberry paper.

Here are some of the works in process drying.

My third colour was a lovely lilac-pink, below rolled out and inked up.

One of the smaller blocks was also inked up in a deep transparent pthalo blue.

Below are two inking variations, the one of the left with the first yellow colour and the one on the right without it.

Linda, a biologist by training, made a puffin for her first ever print.

Some of the people opted to experiment with varying their colours, as in the landscape example by Sherry below.

My fourth colour was a frosty, minty green which I printed on a couple of the pieces, since I was not yet sure that’s what I wanted.

Linda’s turtle is coming along nicely, printed in transparent shades of green and yellow.

Above is Bev’s hummingbird, below is Mary’s completed Vimy piece and Sandy’s bear.

See more from the workshop here.

I have instituted a Gallery Artist in Residence series; our first artist this past Saturday was Lindsay, who looks very happy to be ensconced in the Gallery and painting up a storm!

Playwright and musician Deb and her husband Mike dropped by and we had a few laughs with them. Deb and Mike have a country-flavoured band that gigs around town.

Lindsay, who loves Emily Carr, created this treescape, as well as worked on two other pieces during the time she was in the gallery. It was great having her there.

With Lindsay below is Ronnie Roberts, a local writer who has a new science fiction novel coming out in August.

Sandra and I did the Fort St John Horticultural Society’s Annual Garden Tour this past weekend. Each of the six homes was out in Charlie Lake area, three out the end of Old Hope Road and the other three on the eastern side of the lake itself (near where Sandra used to live when her kids were small).

I had just met the couple who own the first place we visited at the gallery opening the other night: this place is 161 acres, with a large main house, a 2500 square foot shop and studio,

a corral for horses, several dugouts and a pond complete with small island, and a view out to the mountains west of here. It’s also for sale, so if you’ve ever fancied the northern life, here is your chance!

In one of the rock terraces that surround the garden a cast of an Icthyosaurus, cast from one of the local museum’s fossil collections, is embedded – very cool!

And a replica Easter Island head, brought north from Vancouver Island, presides over the front lawn.

Helen is an architect, painter, and potter, and I loved her enormous studio space, two rooms of which are pictured below.

The studio is three and a half times the size of our condo. I continue to be amazed at the amount of property and “stuff” that people up here have; it really boggles the mind – a very different lifestyle that I’m used to.

The second home we visited, “only” ten acres, had a tent of watercolour cards and small paintings, as well as potted plants, for sale.

The roosters below are for Maggie.

The couple also have a lovely rabbit, found by a neighbour hopping through their yard and now provided with a large mesh hutch here in the back yard.

Just down the road was the final garden on this part of the tour, owned by someone who is a bit of a comedian, apparently:

I really enjoyed the metal-and-wrapped-fabric sculpture of a heron standing around in one garden bed.

The canola crops are just coming in here in the fields, their yellow carpet an amazing contrast with the blue sky.

About half way through the tour, the weather turned stormy and began to rain, too bad! The last two places we visited in what became a torrential monsoon downpour.

The final stop on the tour was set up for vendors and had tents for refreshments; unfortunately, when we were there it was too wet and cold to stay outside for long and we beat a hasty retreat to the warmth of the car.

And, the ever-present wrecked car, this time a VW Bug in the weeds.

See more pics here  and here.

 

Solstice, one more time, and an FSJ Canada Day

I had flashbacks of all those many days and years commuting from Vancouver to Nanaimo while on the BC Ferry back to town. Luckily, it was a beautiful, blustery sunny day for the trip and I was able to take lots of photos of the beautiful mountains that I miss up here.

It is such a cliche to say that we take our everyday environment so much for granted, but, yes, it’s true in my case. I did not fully enough appreciate the beauty I was surrounded with each and every day.

Barb had invited me to join in a solstice cycle with the biking group she sometimes ride with and I was looking forward to seeing her and hopping in the saddle again.

On a gorgeous sunny warm evening a group of about 12 of us rode from 11th Avenue near Alma down to the beach and along to the altar at the western end of Spanish Banks just before the hill up to UBC.

Although I hadn’t gotten the dress memo, amazingly enough I was wearing just the right purple-pink attire for the ride.

Although you can’t really tell from these photos, it was a busy time down at the beach, everyone being starved for sun and sand with the very grey and damp Vancouver spring this year.

Also under the category of things not sufficiently appreciated … cycling in Vancouver! I had not been out on my bike since last September and it was wonderful to cycle on the bike paths and along the beach (although I was definitely saddle-sore the next day). Thanks so much to Pam for the loan of the bike!

Along with our cycling party, a group of three police on dune buggies were at the shrine, enjoying the late afternoon sun and slightly impeding what was going to be a slightly more bubbly toast to the solstice!

Just can’t resist those mountain photos! So much more snow on them this year than the last few years. I remember when we were at Sun Peaks two years ago and there was absolutely no snow to be seen on any mountain tops anywhere …

And freighters!

Charlie Lake is the only significant body of water in these northern parts and no freighters ply those waters, only small sailboats and kayaks …

Yet again more money is being spent on Cornwall Street; after having been turned into what is primarily a bike and pedestrian thoroughfare last year, it’s now being dug up again for a purpose that escapes me, to the ire of some of the residents.

I also took a spin around Kits and Spanish Banks and through Jericho Park on one more occasion, really enjoying the lushness of the greenery.

On my way to Beatrice’s place for lunch, I stopped in at Aberthau Community Centre, down by Jericho Beach, to look at their big empty rooms, contemplating a projection or two in their darkened space.

We enjoyed a scrumptious veggie repast in B’s beautiful garden oaisis.

Under the heading of wonderful views is the sunset from the Burrard Bridge.

Christine, Marsha, and I caught the opening day of the new Monet Secret Gardens show at the VAG; luckily, the lineup to get in was not too long.

Monet as an old man in his garden brought two thoughts to mind: Ty in the distant future and ZZ Top.

American photographer Stephen Shore did a series of Giverny garden photos in the 1980s, a set of 25 in different light conditions that are included with the Monet show. With my current mania for reflection images, I enjoyed taking close-ups of these photos with the reflection of the exhibition patrons seemingly in the background of the works.

We spent quite a bit of time looking at the enigmatic Jeff Wall image below, as you can see by our reflections in the photo.

I really love this Rodney Graham piece below, especially since it’s taken at the mouth of the Capilano River at Ambleside, a place that I spent many days at over the years. This was one of my Dad’s favourite places to walk. The photograph, although taken recently, has the colour palette of one of those old 60s postcards.

Here’s a close-up of the figure’s somewhat deranged look, as if he’s having a senior moment and can’t remember where he is or where he’s going.

Below are two samples of the work in Pictures from Here, images of this part of the world, many of them night scenes with theatrical lighting (which I love).

After a light lunch at the outdoor patio in the gallery cafe, enjoying some of the music from the jazz fest below wafting our way, we returned for the final two floors.

I really enjoyed the “alchemical lab” installation piece below, from Persistence. Here is info about the piece from the VAG website: “a collaborative installation by Vancouver-based artists Julia Feyrer and Tamara Henderson. Invoking theatre, play, myth and ritual, The Last Waves: Laboratory (2016) recycles and animates various found and fabricated objects in a capricious, sometimes disorienting response to materials. ”

While the exhibition text does not mention alchemy, that eccentric predecessor of chemistry, the piece certainly does call that up in my mind. Folks have been fascinated for a long time with the idea that worthless dross could be magically turned into gold  and alchemical labs were a staple of 15th & 16th century imagery, especially in printmaking, which it itself a kind artistic alchemy. The engraving below is by Breugel and called The Alchemist from 1558.

Here is some info about this piece: In Bruegel’s image, a dilapidated family kitchen doubles as a laboratory. The alchemist sitting at the hearth on the left appears to be placing the family’s last coin in a crucible to be melted in the alchemical process. This point is further underscored by his wife, who is seated in a hunched posture behind him and attempts to empty the contents of an already empty purse. While the alchemist’s shabby torn clothes and spine clearly revealed through his skin signifies their desperate poverty, his thick, wiry hair, also conveys an impression of vagueness and absurdity, not unlike the modern stereotype of the distracted and dishevelled mad scientist. Both the scene and figures imply that the alchemist neglects himself as much as his family in the single-minded pursuit of his occupation. The scholar on the right, in robes consulting alchemical texts, appears to be instructing the activities of the alchemist and his assistant. As if looking through a window to the future, a secondary scene unfolds in the background as the family walks to a poorhouse. This implies that they have squandered the last of their money in the hopes of achieving transmutation in the quest for the elusive Philosopher’s Stone. Furthermore, the scholarly figure and the assistant are no longer with the family, which possibly suggests that the scholar is the corrupter of those who are more foolish to work in the laboratory aspects of transmutation. In this regard, Bruegel’s print serves as a duel representation of the alchemist as both a fool and charlatan. (Dana Rehn, The Image and Identity of the Alchemist in Seventeenth-Century Netherlandish Art)

Out the front of the gallery, in the refurbished plaza, the jazz festival continued, with a large audience of people perched on the front steps eating hot dogs and sushi.

My final day of the visit saw me heading to our old stomping grounds in North Vancouver to have dinner with my family at Capilano Heights Chinese Restaurant across the street from Cleveland Dam. My nephew Aaron just graduated from the Police Academy and a very proud family saw the ceremony. Father Jess, just retired from the force, welcomed Aaron to the ranks.

Lonsdale Quay gets better and better, with new restaurants and an expanded Presentation House Gallery being built down on the docks.

The bus took me up to the dam where I spent a few moments reliving my youth as I appreciated Grouse Mountain and the greenery of the park surrounding the dam. The last time I had been here a couple of years ago during the terrible summer drought we had, the water was so low in the reservoir; not the case this year; you can still see snow on the Lions in the background.

While in Vancouver I had the pleasure of enoying Pam and Cec’s backyard, an oasis of flowers, with Pam hidden in the background sweeping up a few fallen flower heads. So nice to spend time with these folks and other good friends I was able to catch up with on this whirlwind visit and sorry to miss some of you good people this time!

And finally, I leave you with a beautiful sunset I photographed while walking back to Pam and Cec’s place that night.

See more photos here.

Back in FSJ and I’m gainfully employed once again, having accepted a position as Gallery Manager at the North Peace Gallery in the Cultural Centre here. It’s fulltime at the moment but I will be looking for an assistant soon to help out. Below is a photo of part of the main exhibition space, with changing exhibitions each month; it also has a nice gift shop carrying local arts and crafts.

Gallery 01

Working F/T is a bit of a shock to the system! After work this past week, Ty & I drove out to Sandra’s place and enjoyed dinner and a brew on her back deck, complete with grand kids, which Ty of course got all wound up.

For Canada Day we cycled over to 100th Avenue and took in the Parade; both of us agreed that it was pretty good. We had a great spot curb-side where we could see all the action.

Not surprisingly, there were lots of vehicles, big ones, small ones, old ones, new ones – lots of vintage tractors and cars,

small racing wagons, trick lawnmovers driven by excited riders, hot rods,

motorised toy cars – the Tin Lizzies below,

huge combine harvesters,

horses,

dogs,

and a convoy of first responder vehicles with lights flashing and horns blaring.

The lowrider below, with the snazzy paintjob, is for sale – could be yours.

I managed to score a red, pointed Canada Day party hat to go with my red cycling jacket.

After about an hour of roaring vehicles and flying candy, we rolled down 100th to Centennial Park to listen to music, consume smokies, and check out the plethora of vehicles – more than 140 came out for the day, some of which looked like they hadn’t seen daylight since the building of the Alaska Highway in 1942. Almost all were in fantastic shape, with their proud owners sitting nearby to bask in the glory of our admiration.

The Famers Market was in full swing, as were the food vendors, with long lineups snaking around the parking lot of the Aquatic Centre.

Here’s two overhead shots of the site at Centennial Park by Eagle Vision Video Productions:

Happy Canada Day to you all! See more pics here. Read more about the FSJ celebration here.

 

Bright Nights (and Days) in June

(Above: Peter Vogelaar works on the sand sculpture celebrating the 25th anniversary of the North Peace Cultural Centre on June 6. – Aleisha Hendry Photo)
“It’s 10 feet high, 16 feet long, and, if you could lift it, weighs roughly 30 tons. Artist Peter Vogelaar has been plying his trade and etching out a massive sand sculpture at the North Peace Cultural Centre over the last week—his ode to the centre’s 25th anniversary celebrations taking place this weekend.

It’s a welcome and fitting return home for the former Fort St. John resident and business owner. “I’m sure I’m going to have tons of people coming up saying hi,” Vogelaar said last week. “I’m excited. I’m looking forward to coming back and seeing friends and helping to celebrate the cultural centre.”

With fellow artist Denis Kleine lending his hands to the project, the two are combining a series of images of some of the top performers who have played the centre and the locals who have enjoyed it in return.” (Matt Preprost, Alaska Highway News)

(Photo above Irene Gut)

It has been hot and sunny here for weeks, but of course the weather forecast for the big week-long June arts celebration was for torrential rain. Many eyes anxiously watched the skies and the weather report as it was modified from day to day. Luckily the projected downpour did not materialise until the end of the event and the celebration was held in good weather; good thing, or this incredible sand sculpture would have melted away like snow in the Sahara.

Friday June 9 events included the Miniprint show opening at Whole Wheat and Honey, the Federation of Canadian Artists opening at the Peace Gallery North and the Bright Nights In June Arts Gala in the Theatre at the North Peace Cultural Centre, bringing together loads of local talent. Here is the invitation with details:

Friday June 9th, 2017 – Bright Nights in June Gala
6:00pm:
1940’s themed evening, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres to commemorate 75 years of the Alaska Highway.
Peace Gallery North’s Exhibit Opening “Our Home and Native Land” to celebrate 150 years of Canada.
There will be a sand sculpture created over the previous week by Peter Vogelaar and Denis Kleine to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Please make sure you check it out before the Gala begins.
7:30pm:
Gala performance showcasing 25 years of the North Peace Cultural Centre
Join us to recognize and enjoy the arts as we support our local talent as well as headline performers who started their artistic journey right here in our community, including artists like world renowned composer Peter-Anthony Togni, tap dance prodigy Brock Jellison, and contemporary dancer Shannon May. We are also pleased to bring back some of our favorite performers, country singer Tom Cole, up and coming singer songwriter Tanisha Ray, pianists Dana Pederson and Wesley Phan, violinist Lance Stoney, as well as four local dance companies including Studio 2 Stage Dance Academy, The Move Dance Centre, Peace Fusion Dance Company, and FSJ Latin Dance.
It will be an evening to remember as we honour the talent of the past, present, and future in the North Peace region.

Note my logo on the brochure above …

Luckily, Ty was working days so he could join me for the evening’s festivities; here he enjoys a coffee and chat with Mary, one of the print artists. Along with the display on the walls, the print celebration included a door prize of relief prints and a raffle for one of the accordion book of hand-pulled prints, here arranged by Bev.

Ty & I purchased Mary’s raven woodcut, one of the inspirations for the print logo that I designed.

Mary, Charlie, Sandy and others did a wonderful job of setting up the exhibition, bringing in miniature easels for the tables.

After sampling the art and goodies there, we headed across the street to the Cultural Centre to catch up on the Gala events.

Parked outside the Centre is this campervan covered in portraits of Canadians, in celebration of Canada’s 150th Anniversary (well, it’s actually 15,000 years but who’s counting?). The Gala celebrates the Cultural Centre’s 25th birthday as well as the 75th Anniversary of the completion of the Alaska Highway.

Both Ty & I took a moment to pose in front of Sturgill, a gigantic moose crafted from driftwood by a local artist, now on permanent display in the Cultural Centre lobby. (I do wonder where she gets her driftwood, since there are no oceans anywhere near here … perhaps these are the remnants from the ancient ocean that used to cover this part of the world way back in the dinosaur era).

Here’s what Sturgill looks like from the front (photo Catherine Ruddell):

You may notice that Ty has shed some facial hair, rockin’ the Tom Selleck mustachioed Magnum PI look (he had to shave below the lower lip in order to be fitted for his required full face mask to protect against silica dust while on the site).

(Photos above and below by Twyla Jordan)

I had been unsure as to whether we’d be able to stay awake late enough to enjoy the Gala itself so hadn’t bought tickets (When you get up at five am, the evening ends pretty early). But at 5 minutes to the start, we both decided that, yes, we could do it, at least for the first few hours, joining the throng of culture mavens streaming towards the open theatre door.

Highlighted in the Gala were a number of dancers, one of which has gone on to become a professional dancer in the States, and troupes, musicians (a lot of country and a few classical), and actors (folks we knew from Stage North), all enjoyed by a large and enthusiastic crowd. Here are a few pics of the proceedings.

This group, the Energetic Dance Explosion, is a recent emergence onto the FSJ dance scene; they were great, especially the lead man, and the costumes, complete with multi-coloured flower headdresses and many sequins, were fabulous. They teach all kinds of Latin dancing – I may give that a whirl this winter.

When the first half of the show did not end until 9:30, we knew we had to beat a hasty retreat or we’d both be snoring in our seats for the second half. Apparently the show lasted 4 and a half hours – yikes!

Defying the weather predictions, Saturday dawned sunny and hot for the Big Print event in the Cultural Centre parking lot – huzzah! All the tents for the Art Market were set up the day before and the road roller was already on hand, just waiting for its foray into artmaking.

Alan, the Coordinator of the Gallery, had arranged for T-shirts to be made for the event, bright orange with a big blue roller logo.

Several members of the print group had their works on display and for sale (I understand that some sales were made) and were set up to do demos of relief printmaking.

Catherine, below, is a fabric artist who designs and cuts beautiful small block prints on rubber, used for stamping on fabric, a technique she learned in India.

Below you can see the quilt she’s made with the blockprinted fabrics. She also had several small works of printed fabric (framed below), one of which now has a home at our place.

Everyone was super excited and a bit nervous about the Big Printing, not having done it before. Alan researched the process online and watched a lot of video demos in order to get a handle on what needed to be done. Each artist had been given instructions on the size and depth of block to cut – 24″ by 48″ – to facilitate the printing procedure. Most were making relief prints and working on MDF particle board, but a couple used lino glued onto wood and Judy tried a collograph on matteboard (below is the plate).

Judy’s plate was gorgeous and very ingenious: she used a matte board support, onto which she placed real maple leaves. Glue was then applied  to the board with a gluestick and a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil placed on top, more than covering the entire surface. The uninked plate was then rolled over by the road roller, sealing the foil onto the surface. Judy then folded over the edges of the foil to create a seamless surface for inking.

(Photo above by Irene Gut). Here is the plate, all inked up and glowing in the sun.

Here is the print itself, hanging on the metal fence to dry.

As the morning unfolded, it started to get hot and the inking table had to be moved into the shade because the ink was drying too fast. Below you can just see my back end on the left helping Mary ink her plate (photo by Irene Gut).

Alan had made a jig for the plates and here you can see one of them being placed in front of the roller, ready to go. After slipping the plate into the wooden jig, the beige fiberboard is added, then carpet underlay, and finally a piece of carpet, all sandwiched together in front of the roller.

Here are some photos of the action: it takes a village (or at least a soccer team’s worth of people) to pull this off.

Below you can see four of us working on inking up Catherine’s block, cut pieces of lino mounted on wood, to be printed on fabric. From Catherine: “This shape represents the small stone bead that was found at the Charlie Lake Caves when they were excavated by SFU in the early 1980’s. It was dated to be over 10,000 years old, and along with the other artifacts found at the site, they are considered to be the oldest evidence of paleo-Indian ritual acts in Canada.”

(3 photos above by Niki Hedges). Here is Catherine’s final work drying on the fence (photo by Irene Gut):

Below you can see the entire process of printing Diana Hofmann’s linocut, with imagery based on this passage from The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem Van Loon: ‘High up in the north, in the land called Svithjod, there stands a rock. It is a hundred miles high and a hundred miles wide. Once every thousand years a little bird comes to this rock to sharpen its beak. When the rock has thus been worn away, then a single day of eternity will have gone by.’

Here are a couple of details from the plate:

All the prints were really great and everyone loved the process. Although there had been some concern about how it would go, the day was a smashing success, with the crowd clapping and roaring its approval as each print was pulled off the plate and revealed. Here are the rest of the prints:

Alan’s two landscape linocuts (photos by Irene Gut):

Linda’s Eat Fresh and shellacked block:

Miep’s two Howling Wolves (photos Irene Gut):

And Mary’s Trees.

We also had a grad photobomb, recorded here by Niki Hedges:

Another fun part of the day was the printmaking for kids classes, relief on styrofoam taught by Diana, assisted by Arlene and another woman whose name I do not know, and gell printing by Sandy.

And, to top it off, live music all day long, this set by my playwright friend Deb and her band:

To see many more pictures, and video clips of all the plates being printed, click here.

After enjoying that wonderful weekend, Ty anad I headed to Beatton Park to walk the cross country skiing trails (now summer walking trails) on a beautiful sunny afternoon.

The variety of greens in the trees, foliage, and underbrush is amazing. We were alone in the forest this day, with the butterflies and birds.

There are a lot of Monarch butterflies in this part of the world, feasting on the multitudes of dandylion flowers that proliferate here.

Beatton Park has about 15 kilometers of X Country ski trails, now green and covered in many different types of low to the ground wildflowers.

The water level of the lake has receded the last few weeks and the beach is now open for business once again after having been flooded for a few months.

And I think I’ve discovered where the driftwood comes from in these parts; the lakeshore is covered in it in one section of the beach.

And, of course we had to pop in to the deck at Jackfish Dundee for a brew to cap the day – Carpe Diem folks!! Make hay while the sun shines.

 

 

Out and About in June

Summer in FSJ: Dust Advisory

About half an hour north of here is Rose Prairie, a small homesteaders’ community where some of the people that I’ve met here grew up. 15 human members and 3 doggos from the Sunday hiking group headed out there last weekend on a beautiful warm, sunny day to explore the area.

Sandra grew up out here and it was her family’s land, now belonging to her brother, that we hiked through. Here she is unloading one of the two dogs with one of her daughters and grandkids. There are lots of new animal babies around the place, including these small cattle.

Northeast BC is oil and gas country and most of these plots of land have small pumpjacks on them; these ones still have melt water around them.

Since we were walking through private land, there were lots of wire fences to make our way through.

At the bottom right in the picture above, and below, you see Gus, a 13 year old black Miniature Schnauzer who accompanied us, a lovely little dog who reminded me of Brubin.

After we left the road, the first part of our hike was bush-wacking through the trees and underbrush down the hill towards the Beatton River from the high ridge where we began, looking for a cave that Sandra remembered from her past.

The white flowers that you see here are Saskatoons, from which many Saskatoon berries will emerge at some point. I’m hoping that someone I know is a good baker and will make some berry cobbler!

The underbrush was quite thick and it was a bit tricky to navigate, especially as we came closer to the cliff edge and it was quite steep.

We stayed back a safe distance from the edge, noting that the ground had sloughed away in places from the heavy rains this past year.

After coming close to the edge of the cliff and not finding the trail down to the cave because it was too overgrown, we headed back up and over, through the aspen trees and deadfall back to the ridge along the top of the valley.

This trail was a beautiful open scenic walk with the river below.

At this point poor old Gus had disappeared from the group; he had gotten lost in the underbrush and his human, with several others, went back to find him. (Gus was found, exhausted but otherwise ok, and those folks headed back home). The rest of us carried on down to the river, accessed by a looonnnnng trail down through more aspen trees.

Once at the bottom the valley opened up and we walked along the river’s edge, with lots of freshly deposited soft gray sand, to a shady, sandy spot beneath the trees for lunch.

It is true what “they” say about the northern mosquitoes; they are everywhere and enormous (the size of small birds!), although quite slow-moving at this time of year. Industrial applications of Deep Woods was necessary to try to keep them at bay. I keep trying my selfie shots but the optimum picture continues to elude me – I look somewhat deranged here but this was the best of the lot.

Another day, another walk: Pro Tip: when deciding to go for a walk in Northern BC, do not go into the forest – ever – without massive doses of Deep Woods. I forgot that important point when Eliza and I went walking north of town the other day. My forearms were bare and bug-spray-less when we ventured in and by the time we quickly beat our escape out again I counted 18 mosquito bites on my forearms alone – yikes!! Eliza showed me the spruce tips that she was going to make jelly with.

Fish Creek is still running very high for this time of year.

We passed by the old truck graveyard, previously seen only in the snow. Now that I’ve been doing research into the Alaska Highway building of 1942, I recognise that these vehicles are that vintage and probably came up here with the highway. However, I still don’t know what exactly they are doing in the trees here.

Across the East Bypass Road at the edge of town, Eliza showed me the path to another part of Fish Creek that I had not seen before. Here the creek is even wider as a result of several beaver dams.

As we were walking Eliza pointed out a tiny frog on the path.

June is Arts Month in FSJ: below is a report on what’s happening from the local news source.

(An artist works on a sand sculpture at Sand Sensations B.C. in Taylor back in 2013. File photo energeticcity.ca.)

As part of the North Peace Cultural Centre’s 25th Anniversary Celebrations next week, Peter Vogelaar returns to Fort St. John to create a huge sand sculpture in the centre of town. This sculpture will be 16 feet long and 10 feet tall, and will be built during the week of June 3rd – June 9th in the corner of the NPCC parking lot. Fellow sand carver Denis Kline will be doing the finishing touches on Saturday, June 10 during the Big Print Day Art Market from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm.

On Wednesday, June 7, from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm the NPCC will be welcoming the public to come down and witness this masterpiece take shape. The event will also feature a demonstration by chainsaw carving artist Ryan Cook, who will be competing in the Chetwynd International Chainsaw Carving Competition the next day.

The sand sculpture is slated to be finished for the Bright Nights Gala Reception and Performance on Friday, June 9 at the NPCC.

The Big Print

In the studio folks are working on their big woodcuts for Jun 10. Here they contemplate Miep’s howling wolf.

This project has had a big learning curve for people; the scale, the logistics of carving an MDF plate, and the whole inking and printing process remains to be figured out. Below are some of the tools that Miep has been using, discovering that the large electric drill with diamond tips was better by far than the small hand woodcut tools. Since I’m sure you will be interested to see how it all turns out, I will report on these arts events in my next blog post.

Irene, Regula, and I headed south on a beautiful sunny Friday evening to Dawson Creek for the opening of the Peace-Liard Regional Arts Council’s 35th Annual Juried Show, held this year at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery. On the way, we made a quick side trip to the Historic Kiskatinaw Bridge, a curved wooden trestle bridge built in 1942 that used to be part of the main Alaska Highway.

This show is open to artists who live in the Peace Liard Region – Dawson Creek, Tumbler Ridge, Chetwynd, Fort St John, Hudson Hope, and Fort Nelson, and it travels to a different community every year. Possibly the weather helped, but the turnout was great for the opening; the event included a great spread of nibblies, live music, a welcome and drumming from Treaty 8 First Nations representatives, and awards and speeches by local sponsors.

180 or so works were included and the diversity was breathtaking. Many landscapes, as was to be expected, but also some very interesting conceptual pieces, including the one below by Mary M,

and “Something for Leonard”, below, by Barb Daley, a wonderful mixed media homage to Leonard Cohen. On a Chinese kimono base, the piece includes 8 layers of material, each of which can be lifted up to view. Each of the layers deals with a different aspect of Leonard’s life; the materials include all sorts of fabric, stitching, photography, paint, beeswax, and actual objects such as feathers and the like.

I really love everything about this piece. Other interesting works were the blue Picasso with aliens, below, and

this beautifully-done landscape oil painting by Peter Shaw,

and this very strange wizard with pipe and squirrel piece. The figure reminded me of Ty.

Now that he’s shaved off his beard, leaving only a goatee, the resemblance is not quite as striking but with the full beard – yes, definitely, Ty in a cape.

A number of awards were handed out, including major cash prizes, and I was very glad to see Barb’s work recognised as the Best Conceptual piece. In addition, a number of pieces were sold; the community really supports its artists in this part of the world.

This past sunny Sunday saw a small group of intrepid hikers and one dog make their way to Battleship Mountain, a climbing area between Hudson’s Hope and Chetwynd. Leaving at 8:30 in the morning, we first went to the Bennett Dam to try and access the site, but the road over the dam was closed for repair. We then had to backtrack to Hudson’s Hope, then head for the Johnson’s Forest Service Road on the way to Chetwynd. This logging road is a 67 kilometer gravel treck from the highway into the bush, with loose rocks and lots of sand – sort of like driving through snow, especially on the corners. Luckily, we only saw three other vehicles while we were traversing it; each kicked up a huge plume of dust that blanketed everything from sight. Along the way we passed two burnt-out vehicles in a grassy clearing.

After an hour of bumping along, finally we saw the trailhead sign just past the Carbon Lake Recreational area and pulled over to park. We had left at 8:30 and it was now noon; the sign indicated that the 10 km roundtrip hike to the top would take 6 hours … I was thinking that we had started too late in the day for that. But anyway, after having loaded up our packs, we headed off into the bush for the steep climb upwards.

The route was pretty well marked but STEEP – I was worried and not sure that I could make it. But, having started, I just put one foot in front of the other and ascended, stopping every so often for a rest, my heart pounding and breathing laboured – the ol’ aerobic conditioning was not as good as it should have been for this route!

Luckily, there were few mosquitos and the trail led up through the forest so it was not too hot. Periodically, a nice stiff breeze cooled things down as well.

You can’t really get a sense of how steep the climb was from these pictures, because I could only take photos when we reached places where I was not scrambling up with my hands as well as my feet. The group was very kind to me, stopping and waiting while I recovered my breath.

After two hours of steady upward, we were rewarded with this great view of one arm of Williston Lake.

We paused here for a bit to rest and enjoy the view. I got somewhat nervous when the dog – aptly naked Bear – got too close to the edge.

Speaking of which, all of us had bear spray – I was terrified at the beginning of the route at heading into bear country wilderness but soon forgot about it – just too difficult to actually walk to think about getting eaten by bears!

From this viewpoint, I imagined that it would take not much time at all to get to the alpine lake from which the summit ascent began … wrong! First, after another quite long walk still upward through damp areas and snow, we came to what Sandra called “the swamp”, the first small body of water.

I was quite excited, thinking that our labours were at an end but it was not to be … off we trudged, again upward through water and snow, towards the unnamed lake which, since I was very tired, I began to think was an apparition, like those desert oasis mirages that ever recede into the distance.

But, after an additional hour, lo and behold – the lake!

The hill in the distance is the summit of Battleship and I was glad to hear that everyone thought we did not have enough time this day to attempt it. I would not have been able to do it.

We enjoyed our lunch of cheese, nuts, fruit, and protein bars lakeside.

Bear the dog looked pretty tired, too.

I am so glad to have met these folks and joined in on the hikes; I’m seeing a side of British Columbia that I never would have seen otherwise. And they are all really lovely people.

For more info on the Battleship Mountain hike, click here.

For more photos, click here and here.

Spring in the Peace

I am working with Stage North again on a restaging of the Alcan Craze for the 75th Anniversary of the Building of the Alaska Highway. It is an original play “about the impact of the construction of the Alaska Highway on the homesteaders and natives of Fort St. John in 1942.”

“Written by local playwright Deborah Butler and directed by BC Actor and Director Michael Armstrong, this play depicts the amazement and fear of the colorful characters of Fort St. John when they saw the thousands of American soldiers and the huge machinery barreling through the wilderness in a rush to build 1500 miles of road to Alaska in 8 months.” This co-production of North Peace Cultural Society and Stage North Theatre Society will have 6 performances from Sept 29 to October 7. Below are some screen shots from a History channel documentary on the buidling of the highway.

Sue Popesku, the very first person I met in FSJ and a cultural mover and shaker, is producing the play and I will be creating projections and helping with set design. Deb Butler (below: photo Alaska Highway News), the playwright and also a singer/songwriter, is updating the work for the 21st century and I am really looking forward to working with these folks on what promises to be another exciting theatrical venture!

AHsongs

In addition to the play, an Alaska Highway Road Trip guide, two calendars with historical information and photographs, and a CD of original music celebrating the highway have been produced. Here is an interview with Deb about her play. Currently, I am doing research for the videos, watching documentaries on the highway construction, reading newspaper articles, and looking at historical photographs. Sue has put together five huge binders worth of material from the FSJ Museum’s collection of memorabilia. And in an interesting twist, my boss at Community Bridge is the writer of many of those 25 year old articles. She is also the daughter of the photographer who came to town in 1942 to document the construction and whose photographs are in the Museum’s collection. Truly a small world! If you’re interested, here is a bit more info about the highway.

Little did I know, when we took the photo above at Mile One of the highway in Dawson Creek back in August, that I would be involved in its 75th Anniversay celebration.

As a further development related to these celebrations, the author Lawrence Hill, writer of The Book of Negroes and The Illegal, is doing a Northern road trip of readings to support his own research into the Black American soldiers who built the highway, about whom he is writing his next novel.

Untitled

I was fortunate enough to attend his invitation-only evening reading at the home of Brian and Connie Surerus in FSJ (above) with an enthusiastic crowd of local art and history supporters, including folks I had met the other day at the Museum.

Strangely, given that it has not rained here in months, we had five days of steady rain the second week in May and with it, the environment has become significantly lusher and greener. I am amazed at how quickly things environmental change up here. Seemingly overnight, it now gets light at 4 am when Ty is driving home from night shift, and stays light well into the late evening. The trees that were bare just last week have sprung leaves and small wildflowers carpet some areas of the hillsides. Since the photo below was taken on an overcast day, it’s a bit hard to see them but tiny pink crocuses cover the hills at my friend Sandra’s place fronting the Beatton River.

I had only ever seen her place in winter with a snow cover, so it was fascinating to see it now at the beginning of spring, with so many shades of green, yellow, brown, and gold.

Here is a panorama looking from the top of her property east to the river.

And, yes, it is true that one cannot count on being snow-free until the end of May. Yesterday on May 14 I woke up to this:

A hopefully-final for this year sprinkling of snow.

Now, about a week later, the trees are even lusher, the aspens’ leaves an almost glowing brilliant yellow green. Back at Sandra’s over the sunny long weekend, we practised some vinyasa flow yoga on the platform on her grassy knoll overlooking the Beatton River – glorious. And amazingly, her dog Kaiser just sat quietly and kept us company while we were executing our up- and down-dogs.

I wanted to take more pictures of her various bodies of water, and discovered the names and purposes of each of them (they all had looked the same to me, but they are not the same). The one below is a “dug-out”:

This pond is near the front of her property and is a small man-made lake dug out for the purpose of cattle drinking. It can also be used by her grandkids as a natural swimming pool. Below you can see her home in the distance.

The one below, at the bottom of the “draw” (a small ravine), is also a dugout and is on the border between her and the neighbours’ property.

We followed the game trail down and across the hill and walked through the brush down to the water’s edge.

Sandra pointed out all the various plants and animal tracks on the way; there are many varieties of small edible plants here and lots of animals come here to drink.

Below are pockets of moose poop, found abundantly around the property, and moose tracks in the mud.

From the top of her ridge you can see a number of cycling, biking, and ATV tracks on the hills across the river. The Blizzard Cycling Club uses these trails lots, as do hikers.

The second kind of water body that rural people have is a “lagoon”. When I heard that term, I immediately thought of Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park. But the northern lagoon is for sewage treatment; rather than having a septic field or tank that needs to be pumped out, here the sewage is piped into large lagoons where it takes care of itself ecologically, so to speak.

Above is the road down to Charlie Lake on the way to Miep’s studio; as you can see the lake is now completely thawed and a beautiful blue. Below is a picture of Miep’s lagoon; when I didn’t know better, I thought it was a natural swimming pool. Surrounding it are the ubiquitous, but now dead, bullrushes:

While out at the studio to work on a new painting, I was also treated to the frantic rubbings and splashings of the many frogs copulating in Miep’s lagoon.

In addition to the frisky frogs, Miep has several sled dogs, chickens (in the coop above), two pet dogs, and a greenhouse full of plants. And cows with babies across the road.

To celebrate Bright Nights in June, a month of non-stop arts events up here, the Print Artists North have put together three hand-made accordian books into which the artists have put small original prints to be given to local dignitaries. If you know my work, you will be able to recognise which ones mine are …

The print artists are also one of the many exhibits being shown in town over the summer for the annual downtown Art Walk; their display is on the walls at Whole Wheat and Honey, the town arts cafe and social hub.

In addition to being a venue for visual art, the cafe also hosts Vinyasa and Vino, yoga and wine with Candace, our yogi, and live music nights. The folks below are planning the next arts event, Lift Off, featuring the art and music of local teens.

Many of the people we have met here live on gigantic pieces of property, several hundreds of acres. Several have “sections”: a section is an area nominally one square mile (2.6 square kilometers), containing 640 acres (260 hectares). Karla, my boss at work, invited me out to her place just outside of town and showed me around her acreage fronting Fish Creek between FSJ and Charlie Lake.

She and Ed live in a hand-built log house with an enormously high cathedral ceiling and an always-burning fireplace.

Karla’s an avid gardener and is just getting her greenhouse up and running for the summer.

They also have a large root cellar for cold storage of the vegetables they grow, allowing them to be almost entirely self-sufficient.

This is the property that she grew up on as a child; now the creek is more like a lake in this area because of the beavers and their dams.

As well as a miniature horse named Dash,

Karla has a dog and a large building containing rabbits; Ed breeds two different kinds of these beasts.

Here Karla is demonstrating good northern attire: fleece, jeans, and the obligatory gum boots.

The gallery curators at the Peace Gallery North, Alan and Barry, are leaving town and Barb and her partner Brian hosted a lovely send-off potluck gathering on a beautiful long weekend evening at their place out by the airport. Poor old Ty was working nights so not able to join us – boo.

It’s definitely Spring: sandals, bare legs, and short sleeves are sported by many. Although it’s warmer, I’m still wearing my long pants and fleece, my one concession to the season being that I no longer wear my Russian cossack hat, just my little summer peaked cap. If it gets up into the high 20s, I may break out the Bermuda shorts.

Today, the last day of the May long weekend, I went hiking with the Sunday group to a fellow named Alex Shaman’s ranch property accessed from Meek’s road off the Hudson Hope road.

Eleven of us, plus one small dog with his own backpack, did the 4 hour round trip hike from the bison corrals to the bluffs along the river and back again.

The first bit was along the gravel road and then we headed off across the fields along a ridge over looking the Peace River Valley.

The small dog did well, and was lucky enough to have his owner carry him up the hills using the handle on the back of the pack.

It was quite windy on the first ridge we stopped at, and after a good look around, we headed back to a different, equally windy but more scenic spot, above the river.

On the second ridge was an outcrop of sandstone hoodoos high above the valley.

A number of our group climbed up for picture taking but not me, being afraid of heights.

Heading back, we bushwacked through a stand of fire-blackened trees from the wildfires that had blasted through here last spring.

I could still smell the charcoal, and as we walked ash from the burnt vegetation billowed up from our feet in clouds.

I saw what looked like animal corrals beneath the tree cover but these turned out to be burnt and fallen trees, lying in horizonatal stacks of charcoal.

As we rolled back to the cars, we saw the bison herd in the far distance. A great walk and fascinating to see the burnt and regenerating forest.

This week it feels like summer and the lakefront area at Beatton Park was flooded and closed because of high water and the excess rain that we had a while back.

But everything is beautifully green.

Hard to believe that not too long ago we were walking across the frozen surface of this lake.

Fish Creek Forest is now devoid of snow and ice; the only remaining hazards are mud and moose and bears …

We saw a tiny squirrel and butterfly enjoying the day, sunning themselves amid the trees and foliage.

We finished up Ty’s week off with a beer on the sunny patio of Jackfish Dundee Pub out at Charlie Lake.

And here’s one of those things that make me shake my head … a combination rifle/backbone tattoo on a young woman’s arm.

And, finally for this post, I will leave you with some photos of the animals to be found on rural property in these parts: the fox and moose below were taken by Miep on her property.

And the photos below are by Irene Gut, taken over the past months out at her property at Cecil Lake, about 40 kilometers north-east of here.

See more here.

Walking, walking, walking … and art

The last couple of weeks the weather has been beautiful: warm, sunny, and a gorgeous blue sky, sometimes dotted with cumulous clouds. I have felt like walking more, now that the weather is more conducive to being outdoors.

There are many bullrushes here, always in or near the ponds that have been created in the housing developments – I wonder why? Do they serve a particular purpose? Quien sabe?

The two blues in these two photographs above and below are among my very favourite colours, cerulean and ultramarine.

Fort St John has two cemeteries, one right in town on 100th Avenue (below), and the other at the north edge of town near the Urban Forest. Some of the trees in this cemetery have died and not been replaced. The spruce, especially, look the worse for wear, with red, dead branches.

Even with a couple of weeks of warmer weather, pockets of snow still persist and the melt-water ponds make the ground very wet and squishy.

Driving around the other day, I came across a place I did not know existed: Toboggan Hill Park on the east side of town near the high school. When I saw this relatively smooth path through the park, I was excited – a place to inline skate! But it was not to be – the path only goes through the centre of the park, not the whole way around it. Too bad.

From the hilltop there is a nice view out over the city to the west and the foot hills of the Rockies beyond. And a nice salutation on the back of this bench from one of the disaffected FSJ youth who would rather be elsewhere.

 

At the southern extremity of 100th Street is a viewpoint over the Peace River. I wonder if the person who wrote the message above also inscribed this – the writing looks similar.

Below is the view looking west.

And this one is looking east toward Alberta.

I was inspired to take pictures of the various businesses on 100th Street the other day as I was waiting for the yoga studio to open. Below is the advertisement gracing the window of one of the gyms here, the name of which escapes me at the moment.

And below the window of a German/Russian deli with a very eclectic display of artifacts, including animal skulls, Bavarian beer garden cutouts, a perpetual Christmas creche, and three ride-on model motorcycles.

Below is the Woodlawn Cemetery next to the golf course; I find it peaceful to stroll through these spaces.

Desperate for signs of spring, I have been gazing hopefully up into the trees as I cruise around the city. The aspens are budding; some have small soft grey pussy willow-like protrusions and others have longer yellowish droopy buds.

Also north of town, Kin Park has baseball diamonds, a bike track, and an outdoor fitness circuit with various machines (on the right below). The ground is still too soggy to do much other than walk around the perimeter at the moment.

Begun in 2009, the city has paved walking trails in various areas; hopefully, one of these days they will all be linked. A nice path runs around the back of the hospital and connects with the trail bordering the Eastern Bypass Road.

A farm borders the southern edge of the hospital property, with three beautiful horses resting in a field.

From the Eastern Bypass trail there is a beautiful view out over the farmers’ fields to the Beatton River and beyond. It used to be possible to drive down to the park on the river’s edge but the private property owner through whose land the road ran has closed it because park patrons continued to leave such a mess behind. Now the Beatton River Park is apparently only accessible by boat and I have no boat …

Close to Stage North’s rehearsal space is another farm, with cattle and hay bales; it’s interesting to see the juxtaposition of these beasts with the suburban houses behind.

Moo to you, too! As soon as I stopped to take a picture, the cows’ heads popped up and swiveled toward me; then, in slow motion, they all started to walk toward me … I was a bit nervous.

As I was walking a while back, I stopped a cyclist to ask about getting down to the Beatton River and she advised me to drive north then east towards Cecil Lake to access the river. I gave it a shot and the drive out that way was pretty spectacular.

The hills that just a couple of weeks ago were brown and dry are now starting to become green; the ground cover now looks like olive green velvet.

As was to be expected, given that the road runs through a river valley, it was a windy, hilly drive. It reminded me of the drive to the Okanagan along the Crowsnest Highway (although much shorter).

At the bottom of the hill, along the river bank, there are dirt access roads where ATV riders and cyclists park their vehicles. But most of the property, maybe all of it, is private, as evidenced in the many No Trespassing signs along the way.

I saw these two ducks waddling along the path north of town, looking a little bit out of place.

In the distance in the image above you can see one of the new subdivisions that have been built here in the last couple of years. Like the suburbs down south, they consist of many enormous houses with 3 and 5 car garages and parking for gigantic RVs, all of which is foreign to me, living as we have in 700 square feet for 15 years. (Some of these RVS are almost as big as our apartment). Big dramatic sky this day!

We thought that the building below might be a church way back when it was first begun; still not sure about it. But the property does have 4 garages, one of which must be for an enormous truck.

Right now Ty is on his week off and we’ve decided that we’ve got to keep on rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ through the forest. He selected a walking stick big enough for a giant for our trek through the Fish Creek Forest.

Being careful not to make the same mistake twice, we wore our big boots this time – good thing because the hillsides were still covered in snow and ice in spots where the sun does not penetrate the tree cover – a bit tricky to navigate with my very slick soles, though!

There are lots of large melt-water ponds to satisfy my latest photographic obsession – reflections! The orange-yellowish tinge of the ponds is a result of the minerals in the very hard water up here.

Lots of bright green moss is growing on the trees now.

Seeing all the fungi on the tree stumps here reminded me of collecting them as a kid in North Vancouver, where the bush at the end of our road was a treasure trove of botanical specimens for the ardent seeker.

The creek is running very high, and, in his continuing series of tips for the novice backwoodsperson, Ty advised me that, if I heard a huge rumble, I must instantly run for higher ground because it meant a flash flood was coming our way. I wasn’t too sure how I’d run for higher ground in boots that had no traction through icy, forested terrain …

I have an idea for a sculpture project that requires branches or small aspen trees, so we brought a test branch back from the forest. I mentioned to Ty that the next time we come out, we have to bring a saw so that I can cut down some of the already fallen aspen into smaller chunks … He didn’t think it was a good idea to head into a park with an saw. We shall see.

A few days have passed and we are back in the forest; even though we thought that the past few days of sun and 20 degree heat would have melted the ice and snow, we did wear our big boots.

Good thing! Parts of the forest are still snow-covered.  Areas down near the creek itself are very muddy, as Ty discovered when his gum boots sank a foot deep into the muck. This journey prompted a few more words to the wise from Forest-Ranger Ty, with respect to “the bite”; that is, never get caught in the bite.

From the Loggers’ Slang compilation: “Bite – The area around any piece of haywire which is attached to either two pieces of machinery or from a log to the machinery moving it. The sudden slack jump when the line is tighten could inflict injuries or kill a hapless logger who was standing close by.”

To expand on that: the bite is a situation in which a person could be crushed or killed in various horrible ways, due to lack of care and attention to all potential hazards near them while out and about. In this case, I had unwisely stepped in between two logs, either one of which could potentially have moved, trapping and crushing my foot. I quickly extracted said foot and nimbly clambered over these silent killers to safety.

The slide area was quite tricky to traverse, since there have been more mud slides and big trees crashing down since we were last in here.  It’s too bad because it will be too difficult to clear this area of debris and it has made the path down to the water almost impassable here.

A sign in the creek pointed out what to watch for in terms of beaver activity – we did not see any beavers, though.

However, we did see evidence of bears in the form of the tracks through one very muddy area.

I have to say that this did make me nervous, and we beat a quick retreat out, making a lot of noise as we left!

Artist Kathy Guthrie was up here last weekend for the opening of her show at the North Peace Gallery and a 2 day mixed media workshop with the Flying Colours group, held at the Gallery.

Her show, entitled Love a Memory, is a series of lens-based mixed media works focusing on her memories of her sisters and growing up in 1960s Canada.

I really like her square format works using a photo of one of her sisters as impetus for explorations of memory and disappearance. The photo is modified in various ways through layered interventions of mylar sheets, paint, ink, calligraphy and other media.

I took one day of her 2 day workshop, in which Kathy showed us how to execute Bookhand calligraphy in the morning and mixed media mylar layers in the afternoon.

I really like calligraphy but have never tried it myself. This style is relatively easy, compared with some, but needs the right tools (which, of course, I did not have). I tried to replicate it with a felt pen and construction paper, neither of which was well-suited to the job. I also tried writing on tracing paper, which worked better since the ink did not spread as much.

A few folks did have the right equipment, as well as experience in calligraphy, and their lettering was much better.

I enjoyed watching Barb’s work progress, a homage to her mom Marie-Jeanne, who appeared in the guise of a young child in a bonnet at various points in her images.

We also went next door to Kathy’s show, where she described in detail how some of the images were made.

She showed us the progress of a demo piece through various stages of paint, ink, and lettering:

And then we were let loose to try it ourselves.

We had been asked to bring black and white photographs to work with and I had some difficulty reconciling the black and white and my predilection for bright colours … I did get some ideas for future projects that I’m interested in trying, though.

Another day, another hike … Ty & I were back to Charlie Lake Provincial Park to check out the trail that we had to desert last time. This day it was drier, not as wet and muddy, but still needed the big ol’ boots to traverse.

I just can’t get enough photos of aspen trees, apparently.

Here is Ty taking a break lakeside; he’s wearing prescription safety glasses which change colour according to the available light:

I was a little worried, as usual, about the possibility of bears but there were a few other people and dogs around so no sign of any.

And, finally, for this post, I’ve become a volunteer for the Fort St John Museum; I will be working in the gift shop a few hours a week and as a tour guide.

The main building houses a number of historical exhibits and artifacts; other smaller structures on the property, a chapel, a cabin, and a homesteader’s house, among others, are only open in the summer. Volunteers have been getting them ready to open this week.

Most of the exhibits inside the main museum are of rural life in the early part of the twentieth century. The photo below, of an early northern dentist’s office, is for Barb:

The one below, of a woman who has just given birth, is for my nurse friends:

And this one, of a rural one room school house, is for all you teachers out there:

There are also a number of stuffed animals displayed, including this lynx:

And finally, finally, below is the latest creation on the painting table; I am still working on this one.

See more pictures here.

North and South: spring creeps in slowly

Is anyone out there a cat whisperer? I need some suggestions to help me with my old orange tomcat who plagues me nightly. I have tried Marsha’s “cat-spooning” moves with no luck and am getting tired of his mad dashes up onto the bed and onto the middle of my stomach at all hours of the night. Even though he has food and water in the bedroom, these don’t seem to interest him; neither does lifting the covers of the bedclothes so that he can come under and curl up with me interest him. All he wants is to vocalise all night long and blow bad cat breath into my face. That, and be served with cold, running water from the bathroom taps anytime anyone heads in that direction.

Here is the culprit in the morning, all tuckered out and snoozing after he has spent a hard night farting around and meowing.

 

Spring in Fort St John: dirt, dust, mud, wind, brown everywhere, dirty black patches of ice and snow not yet melted, big ponds of water on the road, flooding water, rocks on the road everywhere (used instead of salt), pickup trucks covered head to toe in dirt. The dumpster in the parking lot outside our building continues to be a source of irritation to me.

I’m like one of those nosy old ladies who peeks through the curtains at the sound of her neighbours moving around – but, it’s the sounds of people throwing bags of garbage into the bin and missing that gets to me. I’d rather not look out my window and see the garbage bin overflowing and bags of trash blowing in the wind through the complex. Ah, the joys of semi-communal living. (BTW now, about 2 weeks later, the bin has been moved to a different location and it is emptied three times a week, rather than two – my prayers were answered! Or maybe it was those photographs of overflowing garbage that I emailed to the management company …)

We woke up to a flooded garage the other day – damn! The big pile of unmelted ice that’s been hanging around the end of our building started to melt with the higher temperatures and, since we do not have a resident building manager, there’s no one to keep track of what needs to be done; in this case, to dig trenches so that the melting water flows out to the street and not into our garages. Here Ty is trying to remedy the situation with a less-than-satisfactory tool (since we do not have a shovel).

And, a design or construction flaw also hampers the water management; since the cement area between our buildings is higher than the garage floor by a few inches, the water flows down into the garage and not into the storm drain … Because the garage is also a storage area, not just a place to park the car, I was pretty upset about it and, to top it off, after I had spent four and a half hours to squeegee out our garage, water kept flowing back in through a small hole in the cement between our unit and the one next door where the absent neighbour’s garage was still full of 5 inches of water. Ty solved the problem with a bunch of sand bags which I pressed into that corner.

More signs of spring – the trees continue to bud – I am hoping for actual flowers soon!

In further art news,  Miep’s studio has aquired a new embossing-like press, handmade by a local fellow – here Charlie demonstrates the intricacies of its operation.

Some of the group attended a weekend workshop in Dawson Creek with David Langevin and were practicing his tips, still using the subject matter of spruce trees. This time, though, the colours were different than those I used when I tried this exercise back last Fall: pinks, purples, and yellows instead of golds and Indian yellows. I prefer this palette (no secret, I guess!)

I enjoyed watching Mike work on his piece; he is an oil painter and this is one of the first times that he has worked in acrylic – a master, for sure! Below you can see the progression of his landscape.

I am participating in the Flying Colours group show Points of View at the Peace Gallery North – here is the poster for it:

All the works are based on Miep’s landscape photos; the idea is that people will be able to see the variety of artists’ points of view, all beginning from the same original source starting point. Below is the piece of mine that I like best; it is a combination of digital photography, collage, and acrylic paint on wood.

And this one, unfortunately a bit out of focus: digital infrared photography and collage on wood:

Below, in the corner, are two others, both acrylic and collage on canvas, along with some other examples featuring Miep’s lovely female moose. (Since I did see one moose last Fall – at least its back end disappearing into the trees – I felt like I could include a moose or two in my paintings)

The opening was well-attended and the crowd enjoyed Charlie’s introduction to the display, as did the artists, particularly his comment that “This is a good opportunity for you to use your credit card” to the assembled masses.

Because I am a newcomer to the group, the local arts reporter for the Alaska Highway News spent a bit of time talking to me about my work and experience here; her article was published in the local paper last week. Here is the article, if you’re interested.

In other art “news”, I am working on some new landscape pieces, acrylic and collage on wood – these are in progress at the moment:

And here is the logo that I designed for Print Artists North (a group of printmakers up here who are having a series of exhibitions and a print exchange over the new few months, and the poster advertising the shows (not designed by me).

On Ty’s last set of days off, we headed out to the far side of Charlie Lake for a walk in the Provincial Park there, thinking that it was spring. For the first time since last August, I had my street shoes on and Ty had his soft-sided ordinary boots. Well, we only got about 100 feet into the trails when we realised our mistake – there was still snow and a foot deep of mud everywhere. So we gingerly backtracked, swearing to always carry our snow and mud boots in the car with us after that. No walk for us that day!

The crystal formations in the melting snow were very cool, though (literally and figuratively!)

On the lake itself remnants of the winter ice fishing season were still there in the form of charred wood patches where the fishermen had sat keeping warm while awaiting their catch.

The lake isn’t nearly as beautiful in its melted state as before with a gentle covering of pure white snow, alas.

Eliza had shown me a beautiful photo she took in one of the local parks of trees reflected in melt-water ponds; I was inspired by it to photograph reflections on my walk along the pathway north of town a week back on a sunny Sunday. One of the really nice things about the north is that it is almost always bright and very often sunny – I love that!

I think it would be very striking to blow these up room size and cover the wall with them – life size trees to walk through in one’s own home.

These photos could be from anywhere; they remind me of an art piece called Leviathan by Kelly Richardson that I saw at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver a while back. It was a huge photo/video piece taken of a Louisiana swamp displayed in a darkened room – I was very impressed by it.

Here is a photo of that piece:

You can see a short video of Leviathan here. I love her work.

We had a whirlwind Easter long weekend trip to Vancouver and quick visits with some dear friends and family. The weather mostly co-operated; some spitting rain, some dramatic cloud formations, and a bit of sun were all on the weather menu.

On a morning walk up Main Street, I took pictures of the mural art on buildings.

I am not walking as much as I am used to up here in the North, mostly because the snow and ice make it difficult in the winter (not to mention the cold). And, since Brubin died, I miss those three daily walks we used to take around the neighbourhood in Vancouver. (I miss Brubin). But I love walking around on Main Street – always something interesting to look at.

I keep trying to get in to see the shows at the Burrard Art Foundation on Broadway when I walk past, but I’m never there at the right time and it’s always closed.

Our old neighbourhood looks mostly the same, with the exception of the two gigantic towers that have gone up in the next block in our absence. They tower over our stubby little building.

One thing we did notice while walking around downtown a few times is the number of empty storefronts, more than ever. With the price of real estate and the rise in property taxes, soon there will be nothing but condos in Vancouver. Most businesses will not be able to afford to be in business anymore if this keeps up.

We stopped to take a look at one formerly ugly back alley near the waterfront which has been tranformed with a colourful coat of paint. I fear that it will take more than coats of paint, though, to make this city livable for anyone other than the rich in the not too distant future. It was lovely to see the kids playing in that alley – would love to see all the downtown alleys tranformed with art.

I really miss the greenery and flowers of the south coast, so beautiful even in the constant rain!

Of course, while we were in Vancouver we had to walk the seawall, sit on “our” wooden bench, and take a ride on the little False Creek ferries. This is the bench that we used to stop at when taking Brubin for his afternoon walk in the summers.

In the picture below it really wasn’t the liquid lunch it looks like! We were hydrating while waiting for Christine to join us for brunch.

I am now officially obsessed with reflection pictures; the bottom image is Granville Island reflected in the mirror taken from Jill’s seawall condo kitchen (essentially the reverse of the image above taken through her front window).

Leaving Vancouver, Burrard Inlet was on golden fire with the sun; the mountains are stunning from above, all snow-covered and gleaming miles into the distance.

Back in FSJ to a foot of new snow! One of the folks up here had told me that there would be 6 snowfalls between the first springlike day and when spring really arrives for good – so far we are on the 5th in the time we’ve been back since Easter! (Now, a few days later the 6th snowfall is here). Here’s the view coming into the Fort St John airport:

Since there is no greenery or flowers up here yet, Ty & I took a trip to Dunvegan Gardens, a big plant nursery up the road and spent a bit of time wandering through all their greenhouses.

The flowers are just beginning to bud and were just being brought out into the light that weekend.

For those of you who follow photographers, I’m doing an Andreas Gursky with the photos below:

Below is one of Gursky’s photos (the only difference between his and mine is that his are worth millions and mine aren’t … hahaha).

Here Ty is choosing a few small plants for our living room (which we haven’t managed to kill yet, although came close this week).

On Ty’s last set of days off, in addition to our aborted walk through Charlie Lake Provincial Park, we also set out on what I thought was a drive to a beautiful lookout point over the Peace River Valley on the road to Hudson’s Hope, only to discover to my disappointment that I’d taken a wrong turn along the way and we were heading for the Yukon on a nondescript highway journey with no beautiful views of any kind to be found. We stopped at the Shepherd’s Inn, Mile 72, for lunch before turning around. They still had those round glass coffee pots and white ceramic mugs that I have not seen since the 1970s.

All for now – See more photos here.

Spring? … Maybe

Right now it’s about 10 degrees above and feels like Spring is here; however, we have been warned that, from the time when it first seems like Spring, there will be 6 snowfalls until Spring actually and completely arrives. It’s definitely thawing, though; the snow is melting, huge ponds are forming everywhere, mud is proliferating, and dust is blowing – freshet!

Here are a couple of photos from the beginning of March when it was still deepest winter; snow on the ground and cold with the wind chill factor.

On Ty’s week off we headed out to Charlie Lake again, to take one last walk on the still-frozen, beautiful white snow-surfaced lake. On our way down to the water we saw the tracks of a snowshoe hare being chased by a predator of some kind – fox? cougar? quien sabe?

Once again, as before, we were the only ones out there; the sound of us marching along breaking through the icy crust started to worry me as I wondered whether the ice was thin enough for us to break through into the icy cold water below.

We survived the walk, although Ty was quite bushed and had to have a little rest … haha.

We have been very busy at the studio this month; several shows are upcoming in this area for the Flying Colours Artist Association and everyone was trying to get work finished for display.

Mary did a couple of classes on linocut with stencils and brought in an abundance of beautiful coloured stencils, papers, and other odds and ends to make prints with.

A really fascinating thing we participated in on March 3 was the annual Rod and Gun Club Fundraising Dinner and Auction. This was an experience totally out of my usual sphere and much of it made me feel quite queasy.

Where the art gallery auction had only taken up half the Pomeroy Hotel ballroom, the Rod and Gun Club took up the entire space, with a huge amount of stuff related to the catching and killing of animals: a silent auction, a regular auction, bucket draws, door prizes … And I must say, the buffet dinner was expansive and excellent.

Lots of guns, including junior rifle sets for the kids; butchering equipment, shooting tables, big boys toys for chasing and transporting game, clothing, guiding packages, and the like. Also, art work by members of the Flying Colours.

Below, a volunteer is holding one of Sandy’s donated paintings aloft for bidding. I was absolutely amazed at the amount of money being spent; the bids on everything were huge – they must have raised tens of thousands of dollars, maybe a hundred thousand dollars, putting the art auction haul to shame. It’s too bad that folks can’t get as exited about art work as they do about guns and animal hunts … Charlie told us that Fort St John has the highest number of millionaires per capita in BC and perhaps in all of Canada, 4.75 per 100 people – who knew?

Somewhere around the first week of March the days became longer quite abruptly. Rather than getting light at 9:30 am, it now gets light around 6.

While it was still cold, Ty had to wear two hats rather than just one. Here he puts his woolen touque over his BC Hydro camoflague cap.

Here I am at Fish Creek Urban Forest, the last time I wore my snow suit. I have to say that I am pretty happy not to have to wear the ol’ snow suit again this year!

Irene Gut, below, is an encaustic artist who was preparing some pieces for inclusion in the North Peace Gallery’s Points of View show coming up in a week.

She uses a small iron to paint with, rubbing tiny chunks of coloured beeswax onto its surface, then runnning the iron over a smooth plasticised paper to create her works.

The coloured chunks of wax look like candies.

I have not made prints for quite a few years but I got inspired by Mary’s demos to make a mixed-media linocut for the print exchange on the theme of Our Home and Native Land. Ten artists are participating and the show is travelling around to several galleries in the Peace region of BC and Alberta. At the end, we will each get a portfolio of 10 works from the other participating artists.

I made a linocut of flowers, printed on origami paper collaged onto a collograph support, in progress above.

Carolyn is hard at work on her moose painting for the Points of View show, based on Miep’s wildlife photography, opening at the North Peace Gallery next Friday night. This moose, inspired by one of Miep’s photos, appears in quite a few works to be displayed.

We still walk along the trail north of town; just recently these condo buildings have risen from the dirt; they follow on the same design as the one we occupy; however, they are selling for considerably less than ours was going for a year ago. Such is the economy here, very dependent on the fortunes of oil and gas.

Another day, another art work … Here are a couple of my works in progress; above linocuts on origami paper and below, digital images collaged onto wooden cradle boxes.

The piece below isn’t finished yet but so far it is textured acrylic paint and collage on wood, featuring endangered birds of the Peace region and Miep’s Canada Goose photo, made small and colour-manipulated.

My home workspace is getting more and more crowded; somehow, things always seem to get out of my control and proliferate – will have to have a purge one of these days. But putting the card table in was an excellent idea so now I can work on pieces while standing – I get very tired of so much sitting!

Ty and I took a walk last weekend out along the Eastern Bypass Trail, its concrete length mercifully free of most snow and ice. My hiking boots, very warm for the dead of winter, unfortunately have very slippery soles so I have to tread extremely carefully on the still-remaining slick pockets of snow and ice.

Sandra, freshly arrived home from a month in Australia, invited me to come with her and some friends out for a hike to the Hudson’s Hope steam vents west of Fort St John. We set off about 8 in the morning for the 2 hour trip up into the Rocky Mountain foothills past Hudson’s Hope on a beautiful sunny and relatively balmy day.

On the way out we stopped at a rest area to take some photos of the Peace River Valley, soon to be inundated by the Site C dam. Fog was lying low across the river; before coming here, I had no idea that rivers could be foggy. We stopped somewhere along the way to pick up Sandra’s friend Debra, who lives with her husband in a large wooden-beamed cabin and riverside acreage far from the madding crowd. Ross hunts and collects antlers, into which he will be carving various scenes.

Along with their main house, Debra and Ross also have a wooden cabin, currently occupied by a friend and her dog.

Our route took us up past the WAC Bennett dam, seen below (this dam created one of the largest lakes in BC, Williston, the expanse of white in the middle of the image below) and onto a logging road up the mountain.

After pulling over to the side of the road, we strapped on snowshoes, just in case we needed them on the way back if the snow had melted too much to hike the trail.

The valley is beautiful and it was very nice to see some mountains once again.

The trail to the steam vents is marked in spots, although I’m not sure I would have been able to find it on my own. Much larger coniferous trees occupy this area, along with some larger aspen.

A covering of about 4 inches of snow still obscured the trail, making it quite slippery to traverse in spots; below Dora is navigating down a muddy trench.

One we emerged from the forested area, the land dropped off to the Peace River canyon. The ground was quite green, with a variety of green, orange, and yellow mosses and small groundcover.

To get down to the steam vents requires picking one’s way along a steep, narrow track that hairpins down the hillside. I made my way very carefully in my heavy boots, putting one hand on the hillside for support. I definitely did not want to trip over my feet and roll down over the cliff!

In 1793 before settlers reached the Hudson’s Hope area, Alexander Mackenzie explored the Peace River and described this geothermal area with its ever-emitting steam coming from burning underground coal seams in his journals. These steam vents reminded me of the Chimera ever-burning hilltop flames that we visited in Olympos, Turkey.

The two doggies who accompanied the group plagued us for food, always on the lookout for any dropped morsel. I was a bit worried that one of them would go over the edge in their excitement but luckily that did not happen.

The view was spectacular!

I’m not sure how long the hike is; it took us about 2 hours to hike in and a bit longer to hike out again. I was very tired after about an hour of the trip back and struggled a bit with my heavy pack and heavy boots, each one feeling like it added ten pounds to my feet. Sandra and Debra very kindly helped me out by carrying my pack and snowshoes for the last little bit. By the time I got home, I was exhausted and collapsed on the couch almost senseless. But what a great day it was!

Below is an example of some of the media things I am doing for Community Bridge, a wooden plaque with a collage thanking one of our sponsors for their support of our 2016 Haunted House. I have created four of these plaques so far – fun.

Here’s another (not very good) photo of what the plaques look like:

See more photos here.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for a Wonderful New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! Although winter only began Dec 22 or so, we have been in the depths of it since the first snow here on Sept 30. A white Christmas and New Year’s Eve here in FSJ! I have had enough snowy landscape to last me a lifetime!

Finally, it looks like the condo building just behind us in the Hudson development (FSJ’s second underground parking is its claim to fame) is just about finished – the men, trucks, and machines that have crawled over this bit of ground since we’ve been here have slowly disappeared, leaving a few trailers and metal fences behind.

Behold Ty’s Hydro truck plugged in; when the mercury dipped to -32 the electrical cord was deployed to the outlet outside our front door.

You can just see the end of the cord glowing faintly in the dark – this picture was taken at about 9:20 am one morning.

The Flying Colours Artists Association had a lovely Christmas potluck out at the Charlie Lake studio, complete with hot apple cider and baked salmon.

And art-making, including this beautiful landscape linocut by Mike:

And this painting of the surrounding fields by Sandy:

Here is a view of our neck of the woods from a slight hilly rise one evening on a walk:

I have been working on a small landscape painting for a while now; usually I am very impatient and end up creating something that I’m not very happy with but I have been picking away at this piece for a few minutes a day for a while now (and it is not finished yet).

Below are two of my digital images that were the original source material for the painting; they began as infrared photos of Charlie Lake, which I then manipulated, mutating the colour and adding ghost trees from Angkor Thom.

We have been enjoying Ty’s week off, taking advantage of the good weather to walk many places around the area. Christmas Day saw us heading out to Beatton Park and the frozen Charlie Lake.

On the way we pass the Wuthridge Quarry, one of Ty’s work sites.

We wanted to take a look at the toboganning site but no one was there when we arrived.

The lake has been frozen for months, and now the ice is deep enough for people to venture onto it. Although evidence of snow mobiles cutting across the ice was there in the form of tracks heading off to the horizon,

we were the only ones on the lake this day.

Snow to a depth of about a foot covers the lake and neither of us was light enough to glide over the surface without breaking through the crust of snow, making the walk a bit of a slog.

We finally made it to a place with a break in the trees and steps up to the road from which we could return to the park.

Since Ty unexpectedly was given Christmas Day off, he was able to join us at Eliza and Edward’s place for a wonderful dinner and celebration, with handmake Christmas crackers and flaming pudding.

On Boxing Day we saw our first moose; it was racing across the field near the College and dipped into the woods as I was trying to take some pictures of it.

Unfortunately, all you can see is its out-of-focus back end disappearing into the trees.

Although we thought that we had purchased enough cold weather gear for the season, Ty needed another pair of snow pants and a balaclava for those times when the extreme cold snow suit is just a bit too warm. Here I am wearing the balaclava for our walk in Fish Creek Urban Forest.

The creek is frozen so we walked along it, enjoying the sound of snow crunching and the small trickle of water running through frozen channels.

One evening we drove around town checking out all the Christmas lights.

This place, on 244th St on the ridge north of the city, is FSJ’s best-decorated house:

Rolling around the circular driveway reminded me of our visits to the Christmas train in Stanley Park.

Yesterday we walked the solar system with Venus, heading into the woods north west of the city.

Ty regaled me with advice about how to avoid “widowmakers”, as in the photo below, those precariously-perched dead trees which can come down unexpectedly, if you’ve been unfortunate enough to camp  beneath one, killing you while you sleep, or, if you’ve stopped under one, killing you while you gaze around oblivious to the danger.

To make his point, he kicked one such tree, bringing it down across the trail, while at the same time one of its branches sprang back and hit him in the forehead, leaving him with a small bloody contusion – point made!

We passed by an old International truck graveyard, with several rusted snow-covered 1940s and 50s vehicles abandoned among the trees.

Ty encouraged me to execute a snow angel – I obliged.

And I will leave you with a few photos of creativity in action to see out 2016!

Here is another painting I’ve started – who knows what it will evolve into:

Happy New Year, one and all!

And, now having experienced a real cold winter, a piece from the New Yorker mag – I can relate:

PREWRITTEN EXCUSES FOR CANCELLING PLANS THIS WINTER

“Sorry, I can’t attend your _____ because my glasses will fog up when I enter and I won’t be able to see and, for a few seconds, I’ll look like a big loser who doesn’t have any friends, until I use my finger as a mini windshield wiper. Then my glasses will be smudgy for the rest of the night, and I really can’t have that. You understand.

I can’t make it out tonight because my face is so cold that I can no longer tell whether or not I have snot dripping from my nose. Oh wait, I just touched my glove to my upper-lip area and, yes—snot. I have to go right home to think about how gross I am for the rest of the night.

I don’t think I can go to your _____ because the invitation indicated that the dress code was “festive,” so I’ll be expected to take off my new coat. I can’t. It’s a very nice down alternative and it is my only protection against the frozen horrors of the world.

I must skip your _____. My lips are so chapped that I look like one of those creepy little kids with permanent fruit-punch lip. Instead of going out, I must get into bed and apply Chapstick for a full hour.

I know I checked “going” on the Facebook invite you sent out for your _____, but I was under nine blankets in bed when I did that. Unfortunately, I just went down the block to buy toilet paper, and I must revise my R.S.V.P. to “absolutely no way in hell.”

I can’t go to your _____ tonight because I have crippling seasonal depression. I know that if I left the house, I’d likely feel a little less depressed, but what if I went through the whole hassle of pulling my jeans over my long johns, trying to tame my crazy hair-static, and schlepping all the way to Bushwick to see you, and then I didn’t feel better? I would resent you, and I don’t know if our friendship could take that strain. So, in order to be a good friend, I can’t see you tonight.

I know it’s your birthday, but I don’t care. It’s your own damn fault for being born in the middle of winter. Celebrate your birthday in October like a responsible human being.

I’m going to have to reschedule our _____ unless you’re willing to come to my home, and won’t make me change into something nicer than the four layers of Uniqlo Heattech long underwear I have on now. I promise that if you come here this time, I’ll go to you next time.

I know I promised that this time I would make the trek to your place for _____, but I lied. I’m not doing that.

New plan: let’s all just order Indian food by ourselves and Gchat each other from bed until it’s April. Cool? Cool.”

More pics here.