Winter is Here!

Our first snowfall happened October 25, almost a month later than last year, with a record-breaking  55 centimeter dump on FSJ. 55 cm!! That’s a lot of snow and it caused havoc, as you might imagine. I just barely got out of our garage; none of the side streets were plowed and the main drags of 100th and 100th had only a single lane each way. Arriving at the Cultural Centre for work, there was nowhere to park, since the lot was not plowed. I did manage to drive the car into the lot but then got stuck in the middle of it, along with every other car and truck that attempted to come in. Below is Oliver, the Operations Manager of the Cultural Centre, digging out one patron who got stuck.

After an hour’s work of shoveling, I managed to free the car from the snow enough to get it into a parking space. And then I was praying that the temperature wouldn’t drop before I left and freeze the car into place!

Since then it has been snow, sub-zero temperatures, freezing rain – in other words, full-on winter. The balcony chairs and table, and the BBQ, have acquired mushroom tops that get progressively bigger.

Of necessity, I have learned how to drive in snow and ice and the proper tires are an absolute must – you might remember that one of the first things we did when arriving up here was get new snow tires!

After a snowfall the city plows and trucks are out in force; first, the roads are plowed such that the snow is piled in the centre of the roads. Then, one truck scoops up these piles and dumps them into a gigantic dump truck which then hauls it away somewhere.

But in public parking lots the snow is simply pushed into big piles in the corner.

These gigantic piles remind me of the tall snow drifts when I was a kid in North Vancouver; they could be up to 8 or 10 feet tall and reach up to the eaves troughs of the house.

I continue to go out to Miep’s studio at Charlie Lake when I can. Lately I have been working on a small series of black and white woodcuts of body parts: so far I have a heart, pelvis and skull.

Mary was working on a series of small woodcuts as demo pieces for the class she was teaching through the gallery.

Diana is experimenting with monoprints and collagraphs.

Ken, a former biology teacher and highschool principal, took up wood and stone carving when he retired. He creates wildlife pieces; this one is an eagle in alabaster. In fact, most of these folks are or have been teachers.

Sandy is a retired elementary school teacher who took up painting in earnest when she retired; she is a master of the peace area landscape.

Mary was kind enough to show a couple of us the technique of cyanotype printing, a form of art-making that was originally developed for making blue-prints (cyanotypes are literally blue in colour). You can use photonegatives, drawings, paintings, or photocopies on mylar and actual organic material, such as plants. Below you can see all these materials deployed. Once the material is arranged on paper to your satisfaction, you then place all of it, as is, into a light box for six minutes, then dip the paper (after removing all that material) into a couple of chemical baths to be developed.

Here are some of the materials that I was working with to create mine.

I made several prints but was only happy with one – this one:

I played around with the colour in photoshop a bit.

Mary and Charlie have gotten a beautiful miniature schnauzer pup named Buddy, who accompanies them to the studio. A very sweet little guy, he reminds me of Brubin when he was young.

In addition to her 8 husky sled dogs, Miep has three pet dogs (2 of which are brown retriever puppies) and a couple of pet birds, including this fancy chicken.

I’m enjoying working at the Gallery and curating a few exhibitions there before we head south. Our most recent show, entitled Varieties of Abstraction, featured five artists who shared their individual views of the world around them in works that appealed to both the eye and the brain, giving us alternative views of the natural and human landscapes. I was really happy with how it looked and everyone who saw it thought it was great.

Below is the poster I designed for the show.

Varieties of Abstraction

The opening was great, with music by the Intermezzo Quartet and Ty manning the bar table.

Here’s a link to an interview I did about the show with local TV media Shaw Cable.

We had another Book Launch in October, featuring Pat Ferris, a local writer and cycling enthusiast, presenting his latest, a thriller set in the not-too-distant future entitled His Disciples Watch. Along with Pat, the evening included a special musical guest, local singer-songwriter Lorissa Scriven.

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The Gallery Artist-in-Residence program I started continues to showcase the creative process of local artists, such as painter Laurie Yates,

painter, photographer, and textile artist Eliza Stanford, working on rug hooking,

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Natalie Brekkaas doing pottery,

Ken Forest working on his wood relief carving of two Canada geese,

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and Alex Neilson spinning art yarn to make bracelets.

Fort St John has an annual Christmas Parade – I have never seen it because the book club meets the same evening but these photos by Darcy Shawchek give you an idea of what it looks like. This evening was a cold -20 or so.

The photos below, by Norman Siemens, are of Centennial Park all dressed up in lights for the season.

For the past two weeks I have volunteered my teaching services for my friend Lorna’s alternative school in Baldonnel, called Freedom Thinkers. The school is located on the property of the couple who run it and consists of several buildings that used to house a horse stable. Many rabbits cruise around the place.

Freedom Thinkers is small, about 60 students in grades 4-9; last Monday I taught the older students about Modern Art and we did some hands on exercises in Cubist drawing and a Surrealist game entitled the Exquisite Corpse.

For three players, Exquisite Corpse, also known as exquisite cadaver (from the original French term cadavre exquis) or rotating corpse, is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule or by being allowed to see only the end of what the previous person contributed. The name is derived from a phrase that resulted when Surrealists first played the game, “Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau.” (“The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine.”) In this version of the Exquisite Corpse game portions of a person are drawn or collaged by three different participants successively, without being able to see what has been done before.

The kids really enjoyed the game and the results were great – we pinned all the drawings on the walls and they spent quite a bit of time looking at and discussing then.

I haven’t had much of a chance to hike this Fall; on one of the excursions that I missed the group came upon this evidence of a grizzly bear in the vicinity.

I did get out a couple of weeks back for a hike through the snowshoe trails of Beatton Park with Sharla and Sandra and a few others.

I felt quite out of shape in the company of these amazing women who never seem to slow down – by the end of our hour and a half slog through the snow I was panting pretty hard.

Sandra continues to amaze me with her stamina and strength; one of her grand-daughters came with us, a seven year old who got a bit tired towards the end so Sandra carried her the rest of the way back to the car.

After the hike we headed back to Gail’s place for a lovely brunch of German pastries. I was fascinated with all the birds that make their home in the trees in her front yard, including three beautiful blue jays.

On Ty’s last set of days off we headed out to the Fish Creek forest for a walk through the winter wonderland, having not been there since the summer.

We no longer venture down to the bottom of some of the trails; the slide areas are large and we don’t know how stable those fallen trees are. And who knows if those trails will ever be open again; it would be a massive job to clear out all that log debris.

Ty is a happy man with the anticipation of winter sun coming his way in the not-too-distant future. Here he is in full winter gear, with his orange parka and fleece, good to -40 apparently! I continue to hope that we will not see -40 again this year.

And finally, for now, I’m happy to announce that my experimental short The Vanishing has been selected for the inaugural Short Film Festival of Biodiversity in Porto Real, Portugal.  The main purpose of the Short Film Festival of Biodiversity is the “promotion and diffusion of natural ecosystems and biological heritage through cinematographic and audio-visual works selected according to quality criteria.”

(And lo and below, we are right now in the middle of a snowfall warning, with 20 more centimeters expected by 9 pm tonight …)

See more photos here, here, here and here.

Golden Autumn

 

Well, last year up here winter began with a snowfall that never left on Sept 30. But this year it’s a different story: it’s still sunny and quite warm some days, although at night the temperature goes down below zero. We still haven’t turned on all the heat yet – saving that for later in the year. (The winter electric bills up here are a killer!)

On Ty’s last set of days off we managed to get a nice hike in on Sandra’s brother’s property up in Rose Prairie. When we were there before it was the end of June and summer; now the colours and vegetation have changed and I almost did not recognise some of the places.

The walk goes past two small oil pumpjacks and along the ridge above the Beatton River. As you can see the grasses and trees are yellow and golden now. Really stunning!

Here Ty is pointing out the berry-filled bear poop on the trail. I am amazed that everyone up here can distinguish between bear, moose, deer, and dog poop. I was also a bit nervous to see that this particular pile was fresh. The others reassured me that, because there were so many berries this year, we did not need to worry about becoming this bear’s next snack …

After a warm walk downhill, we reached the riverside and its sandy banks.

It was a pretty warm day and we found a nice spot in the shade under the trees to have lunch. Luckily the mosquitoes have more or less left this vicinity; however, the wasps and ants were still actively sniffing around for food.

The way down was a pleasant stroll, while the way up again was a bit of a hot slog.

This beautiful golden season does not last long, this year about 4 weeks (last year it was 2 weeks). Now, two weeks after this walk, almost all the aspen trees are bare, stark skeletons against the bright blue sky.

For the last three months I worked on the set projections for the Alcan Craze of ’42 with Director Michael Armstrong of Nanaimo and local playwright and musician Deb Butler. The play is about the building of the Alaska Highway in 9 months in 1942, with thousands of American soldiers coming to the north, and the impact that event had on Fort St John and the surrounding area.

All that hard work paid off with wonderful reviews for the 25 videos I produced using historical images and movie clips. My clips were between 6 seconds and 6 minutes long and were used to flesh out the story, projected on the big wall behind the actors. Here are a few samples from the production.

Some of the images were stills, others are part of a moving montage.

  

And here is a video clip of the final scene of Act One, dealing with the drowning of 12 soldiers in the icy waters of Charlie Lake.

Drowning Scene.

Life at the gallery continues: September was a busy month with preparations for the Annual Art Auction which came to fruition on the last Saturday of September at the Pomeroy Hotel, with a buffet dinner, live music, live auction, silent auction, games (Heads or Tails below), bucket draws, and 50/50 draw. One hundred and twenty-five people came and we raised $25,000 for the gallery and visual arts programs in this community.

Featured artist this year was Karl Musgrove, a local rancher and artist who continues to paint every day even after having had a severe stroke that impedes his ability to talk and walk. Below Karl receives a standing ovation from the crowd.

I lasted until the last round of the Heads or Tails game and then was eliminated, leaving Miep (centre below) the happy winner of Cody Smith’s King of the Mountain painting.

Here’s a picture of auctioneer Brian Baldry in action; he’s very good at his job and was able to get some determined folks bidding against one another for the paintings on offer, resulting in very good prices for the work.

Gallery artists in residence continue throughout the Fall, with Judy Templeton wowing the crowds with collagraph printing on a tiny press.

And Laurie Yates painting.

On the day that Laurie was in residence, we had a visit from two Japanese cyclists who were heading through town on their way south, having begun their ride at the most northerly spot in Alaska. One, the gentleman on the left, is riding to the southern tip of South America, Tierra del Fuego, expecting to take two years to get there, and the other is going to Los Angeles.

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We’ve had two very successful events at the gallery in the last few weeks, the first a book launch, reading, and signing with local author Ronnie Roberts, who presented her post-apocalyptic novel set in the North Peace entitled Lost Sentinels. (There is a very active writers group here in FSJ, who meet every month at the library next door to the gallery).

As we pulled into the Cultural Centre parking lot for the event, the cloud formation overhead looked strange and almost apocalyptic.

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Along with Ronnie, local musical quartet Intermezzo serenaded the crowd with Baroque favourites.

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Ty serving wine and chatting up the crowd; he is the gallery’s defacto bartender for these evenings and does very well at it!

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Ronnie giving her signing hand a workout. We sold all but three of her books at the launch.

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And Fort St John’s two bassoonists meeting one another.

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The second event, just a few days ago, was the opening of Flora & Fauna: Block Prints by Catherine Ruddell and Driftwood Sculpture by Michelle Pringle, a beautiful show by two young local artists. It was a great success, attended by a big crowd, and received a very positive review by the local paper. (At the Cultural Centre there is an arts-based preschool, whose members came by the other day for a gallery visit as we were installing the Flora & Fauna show.)

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Here’s a short video I made of two of Michelle’s pieces arriving at the gallery.

Anderson & Libby arrive.

Intermezzo, in its trio version, played light jazz for the opening as the guests mingled and took in the art, including four life-size and over-life-size driftwood animals and an enormous quilt.

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The picture of the artists, below, was taken by Matt Prepost of the Alaska Highway News.

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Photo of Catherine’s block print quilt by Matt Prepost.

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There is also a very active photography club here in town, many of whose members head out nightly to capture the aurora borealis and daily to capture the changing seasons. The three photos below are by Vincent Bedier, whose handle is VinDronus.

I’m very happy to say that a couple of my films have had success recently. My experimental short An Accident of Being has been selected for this year’s Roma Cinema DOC in October 2017. Roma Cinema DOC is a monthly film festival based in Italy that features films, documentaries, and web series from around the world. Every month, Judges award the best films of each category. Every winner is given the distinction of an Official Finalist of the annual event in which Judges and Audience will award the best films of each category. The 2nd Roma Cinema DOC event will take place in October 2017.

And my short experimental film The Vanishing was selected as a semi-finalist for the 2017 Kaohsiung Film Festival International Short Film Competition in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. Held in October and November 2017, the Kaohsiung International Short Film Competition is dedicated to discover new filmmakers and to enhance cultural exchanges through short films.

And, finally, for this dispatch, Happy Thanksgiving to you all, wherever you may be! We had a wonderful meal at Eliza and Edward’s place, with tortiere, homemade soup and bread, and a very tasty dessert, especially appreciated by Ty who has been on a no-dessert diet for the last two months.

See more pictures here and here.

 

Road Trip II and August in FSJ

After a great visit in Saskatchewan, it was time to hit the road again in the ol’ Subaru, heading west and back to the ranch, with quick pits stops in Edmonton and Grande Prairie on the way back to recharge the batteries with a hit of art. The plan was to visit as many art galleries as possible between Saksatoon and Fort St John  and we managed to see quite a few! Above is a photo of a rest stop at a Gas Station/Coffee Shop in Vermilion, Alberta somewhere along the route. While there I saw a tiny prairie dog pop its head up in the scruffy bit of grass – no photos of him but you can see the burrow in the foreground.

But, I forgot to mention in my last post and so will do it now, as we were heading east to Saskatchewan, we did manage to visit the Muttart Conservatory before blasting out of town. Ty is standing in front of one of the four separate garden pavillions that comprise this plant mecca.

The Muttart is like a greatly expanded Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver, without the latter’s birds but with sculpture, such as these clay heads.

The temporary Canada 150 pavillion had a lizard crafted from a great variety of plants and flowers and was festooned with Canadiana in the form of flags and umbrellas.

In the desert pavillion we saw something very uncanny … one of those things that make one scratch one’s head, complete with beige travelling hat.

We were using google maps’ GPS function for the entire trip so I never really felt I knew where we were; I was just following the voice, turning left, turning right … not the way I’m used to navigating. But for the most part, it did get us where we needed to go. After a relatively painless 5 hour drive we arrived in downtown Edmonton at the Crash Hotel, a converted SRO crashpad in the ICE district, just across the street from a gigantic construction site which, luckily, was mostly shut down for the two nights we were there.

The first order of business upon arriving was a beer in the very pleasant lobby bar!

Our room was pretty nice, with two queen size beds and a cool mural on the wall. One small downside of the Crash was that the pub downstairs rocked pretty loudly until midnight, hence the two pairs of earplugs placed on each pillow.

It was a beautiful evening so we decided to walk to Syphay Thai restaurant not too far away in the Chinatown area. The trouble came in trying to discern which way was east or south. Neither of us could make much sense of the map because we weren’t able to orient ourselves to any known landmarks, such as mountains, and neither of us knows Edmonton. Ty had been before many years ago but this was my first visit.

We passed by Churchill Square, with its fountain is full glory, and the Art Gallery of Alberta, and just happened to be there as the annual Cariwest Caribbean Festival was kicking off. A DJ spinning tunes, parade costumes and floats, and vendors were all there doing their thing.

I was pretty tempted to take a dip in the fountain – it looked very appealing – but since we were going for dinner, I decided that it would be a bit uncomfortable eating in wet clothes.

After asking a security guard for directions, we headed towards the Chinatown gate and the Thai restaurant.

It looked like lots of old buildings had recently been razed in this area and their land converted (temporarily?) to parking lots. A lot of street construction was also going on in this area.

When we got to the restaurant it was absolutely packed out and of course we had no reservation so it was a bit of a wait but really worth it – the food was excellent. We both really miss Thai food and spicy Asian food in general!

 

After dinner we strolled back to Churchill Square and waited on the stone amphitheatre steps for what was billed as a parade costume competition which was taking forever to get started.

Finally the proceedings got rolling with dancing children, some in costume, and individual competitors in the costume event.

Each participant had a different soundtrack and a unique, colourful costume, some, like the woman below, in one which was part parade float that she pulled behind her as she danced.

I was able to get just a few photos, and none of the really elaborate ones, because both my cameras ran out of juice … sigh.

Another fortuitous happening in this part of town that we did not know about was the Saturday downtown Farmers Market occupying quite a few blocks just around the corner from our hotel.

Once again, trying to find our way from the Farmers Market to the Alberta Craft Council Gallery, we got lost … but, after turning on the ol’ GPS, finally found ourselves at the right place. This gallery and gift shop houses an enormous amount of items, and has exhibition spaces both upstairs and downstairs, the latter huge.

Upstairs, the ceramic work of Ken Lumbis was what I had wanted to see, since he will be showing with a few others in our gallery in November. His work is pit-fired abstracted landscape wall panels, behind Ty in the photo above and on the wall below. He fires these in the BBQ pit in his Grande Prairie back yard.

The gallery window space was full of beautiful coloured glass, something I’d like to see at the Peace Gallery North, since we do have a few glass artists here.

The downstairs space had a expansive show of women’s needlecraft and fabric works. Both of us loved the yarn-bombed chair below.

The space reminded me a bit of one of my grandmother’s basements in the 1960s, with its somewhat shadowy ambience and pillars.

Just down the street is Latitude 53, an artist run centre, where we saw some quite interesting drawings on mylar by a Latin-American artist, who also created a floor piece out of coloured sawdust that was designed to be eradicated by visitors’ footsteps over the course of the exhibition. It reminded me a bit of the sand mandalas done by Buddhist monks designed to be erased and blown away as soon as they’re completed, encouraging viewers to practice non-attachment to the things of the material world, all of which are destined to disappear.

I contributed to the floor piece with a little dance dust-up.

Back down at Churchill Square on our way to the AGA, I was once again tempted by that fabulous fountain …

At the AGA we saw some interesting stuff, including the Alberta Biennale works of Alberta artists.

I’m getting more interested in works like the piece below, that consist of repeated items in a minimalist palette (but not for myself, of course – just can’t leave behind my predilection for bright colours).

The gallery’s fourth floor has a nice outdoor seating area that overlooks downtown.

While there, we saw a collaborative project between an installation artist and two musicians, who were creating a soundtrack for the piece below, hanging strips of mylar, coloured lights, and a stool.

We decided to hop in the car to get to the 24th street commercial galleries that had been recommended to us, and managed to take in almost all of them before it was time to head back to the hotel for a rest.

Another lunch time, another great Asian feed, this time Japanese-Albertan ramen soup bowls with prairie incredients – really tasty.

The Peter Robertson Gallery had some very interesting works; I especially enjoyed seeing the Colin Smith pinhole camera photos again – I really love these, especially the ones taken from the inside of one of those tiny round Boler trailers. (Years ago my Dad used to muse about getting a Boler trailer when he retired, using it to both live in and cruise around the country …).

Our last evening in Edmonton was spent in the university district south of the river with artist Sara  and her husband Ken who treated us to a lovely dinner and a look around her downstairs printmaking studio.

Back on the homeward trail the smoke from the BC wildfires was very apparent as soon as we got some 40 or so kilometers northward. At moments on the trip back we couldn’t see more than about 100 meters in front of us – not good.

We made a quick pit stop in Grande Prairie to visit the studios of Ken and Carol,  Ken a ceramic artist and Carol a mixed media painter, and wood sculptor Candace, and really enjoyed seeing these artists in their own habitat.

Below Ken is showing us the BBQ pit in which his pieces are fired.

Unfortunately, my photos of the second visit didn’t turn out but here are a few photos of Candace taken by Chris Beauchamp. She’s a wood sculptor, using driftwood gathered at her Galiano Island property and worked on in her home studio in GP.

Back on the ground in FSJ the current gallery show is Summer Salon: Big Road Roller Prints, small prints, and paintings by gallery artists. As well as big wood- and linocuts printed at the Big Print steamroller event in June, paintings and more, there is a nice display of colour woodcuts and related plates by gallery artists created at the recent workshop we attended. Below is a photo of me at the epicentre of downtown FSJ, 100th Avenue and 100th Street, across the street from the Cultural Centre and the Gallery.

Summer Salon poster

The Gallery Artist in Residence program continues with a pretty full slate of people joining me in the gallery to share their creativity. This past week Sherry and Barb rocked the clay, hand building pinch pots, mugs, and bowls to the delight of gallery-goers, including one very tiny budding artist.

And Barb D’s “Magnolia Outfall” project got off to a great start in the gallery this past week, as folks with ideas gave their input. She put out the call for creative input into this project which will ultimately result in a fabric wall hanging.

Barb’s 92 year old mum, an old school miliner and tailor, joined her in the gallery for the afternoon.

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It already feels like Fall around here, with the temperature hovering around 19 or 20 and a coolish breeze blowing throught town. We took advantage of the sun to make another trip out to Charlie Lake to see the summer flowers that bloom everywhere here for a very short time.

The Flying Colours artists convened in Baldonel, a rural suburb of FSJ, at Bev’s place for an afternoon of garden appreciating and plein air artmaking.

I am amazed at the size of the gardens folks here cultivate in their “spare” time; Bev’s is huge, with a greenhouse full of flowers and greenery and a fenced area of food crops, including a bumper crop of berries.

Below is the masterpeice in acrylic and collage I created on Bev’s back deck.

And, finally, for this post, last year at the Annual Art auction I was lucky enough to win the grand prize, a helicopter ride for 4 over Fort St John with Canadian Helicopters. Sunday morning was the moment and saw Ty, Sandra, her grandson Caellum, and I out at helicopter lane on a gorgeous sunny morning for our trip. The office has a resident cat, Cherry, who took an instant liking to Ty. After many pats, we were off on our flight.

Below is a video I made of the journey: I thought I might be terrified but it was not the case, perhaps because the view was so expansive. As we left the airport we flew right over Sandra’s house; you can see it in the video, the silver house with a red roof on its own in the field. The furthest extent of our trip was the Rose Prairie Beatton River-side property of Sandra’s brother Bruce, whose place we had been to a while back. It was amazing to see the snake-like extent of the Beatton River canyon from above. As we flew back towards town and Site C, we cruised right over the Hudson townhome and condo complex – see if you can spot our place!

See more photos here, here and 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.

 

Celebrating the Solstice in Cedar

Solstice on Vancouver Island seemed like a good idea so I headed down to stay with dear friend Maggie in Cedar, south of Nanaimo. The first few days were typical October Island weather (except that it was now summer …). We took in the Cedar Farmer’s Market in its field outside the Crow and Gate Pub on Yellowpoint. After spending time in the north, I am always amazed at how green and lush everything on the south coast is and how many beautiful colourful flowers there are. So, of course, I had to take pictures of almost every flower I saw:

Since it was a bit of a gloomy Sunday, we decided to do an art, lavender, and labyrinth road trip down the coast. The first stop was the garden and studio of a glass artist whose name escapes me, formerly the Barton and Leier Gallery, a lovely, eccentric collection of sculpture, junk, rusted vehicles, glass, and greenery.

This place would be wonderful as a film backdrop, a scavenger hunt venue, or to play hide and seek in the dusk.

Buddhas gaze out serenly from all corners of the landscape.

The artist was not immediately visible so we just peeked into the shop to see his glass wares, before heading off down the road.

There are several artists and artisans in this neck of the woods and at this moment, I can’t remember their names, but the next studio we visited was full of colourful abstract mandala-like images, as well as painted furniture.

Thinking that the Damali Lavender Farm and Vineyard was “just down the road”, we drove south from Yellowpoint, intending to walk the Damali labyrinth and do a little wine tasting. Damali turned out to be a little further down the road than we thought, south of Duncan near Cowichan Bay, but it was a nice drive on a not-too-busy highway.

Wine-tasting is offered in the wooden house (above) every day in the summer and it was lovely to stroll through all the many varieties of lavender growing here.

I had no idea that lavender came in different varieties, but as you can see the colours and flowers are slightly different from one species to the next.

Although the farm was not huge it took us a bit of time to find the labyrinth. I had thought it would be made of lavender hedges, but it was a smallish Cretan-style labyrinth simply etched in the grass at the edge of the property.

It was so great to spend some time with Janet, also staying with Maggie for a bit; the three of us sampled the Damali wine wares and left with a box full of vintage grape.

A bit peckish after wine-sampling, we headed down into Cowichan Bay (which I’d never been to before) for a snack.

Although very grey and socked in with clouds, the Bay was still beautiful.

The solar piece de resistance was to be the Cedar Keep Labyrinth walk on Tuesday night at 9:24 pm, the exact moment of the solstice, according to the internet-who-knows-all. But, in order for that to happen, we had to clean the path of its organic debris and get rid of the tall weeds impeding the way. Janet took on the task of removing the weeds, while Maggie and I brushed the path free of weeds, pinecones, and other assorted plant material that had wafted down on to it over the months.

Maggie’s labyrinth is a full size Chartres-style path which takes about 15 minutes to walk each way, so there was a fair bit of real estate to clear.

Its centre contains a cement pool, now empty, and a large ceramic pot with plant, next to which is a meditation bench on which to sit while contemplating the universe and its mysteries.

After spending some time clearing away debris, we spent the afternoon, now warm and sunny, painting in preparation for the solstice evening. It was lovely to see good Nanaimo friends Janice, Libby, and Colleen (and get in a round of bridge which I’m missing up here in the north country) who made the treck out to Cedar in the afternoon and I’m sorry to have missed some of you good people on this trip!

I decided to do a couple of small landscapes which I would consign, with good wishes for the coming year, to the solstice bonfire that night.

Janet staked out a shady position under the Japanese maple to execute a watercolour of the flowers in Maggie’s front yard.

We were so happy that it was warm, sunny, and dry finally. The late afternoon had a golden glow as the sun shone through the filtering canopy of the trees onto the cleared path.

As the sun started to set, we gathered supplies for the backyard altar and bonfire; Skye and Sara spent a few moments executing some yoga moves while waiting for the branches to catch fire.

The shed behind me in the picture above, through which the final loop of the labyrinth passes, contains the remnants of my mannequin collection, with random arms and legs and torsos occupying cast-off furniture, a silent chorus of spirits to cheer us on our way. While Maggie, Janet, and I spent some time lighting the labyrinth and mannequin shed with candles, Sara and Skye tended the bonfire.

I consigned one of my small painting to the flames and watched as it slowly crumbled up and dissolved, leaving only some small blue spotted remains behind.

I had brought some of my small coloured LED lights down with me which I hung on the central tree. We enjoyed the warmth of the fire as we waited for the appointed moment and at 9:12 we each set off around the labyrinth, aiming to end up in the middle for a toast at 9:24.

As the sun continued to sink, we toasted the solstice, the new year, and feminine energy.

Solstices happen twice a year – in June and December. The June Solstice happens around June 21 (June 20 in our location), when the sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Cancer.  Solstice comes from the Latin words sol, meaning sun, and sistere, meaning to come to a stop or stand still. On the day of the June Solstice, the sun reaches its northernmost position, as seen from the earth. At that moment, its zenith does not move north or south as during most other days of the year, but it stands still at the Tropic of Cancer. It then reverses its direction and starts moving south again. (https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/facts-about-june-solstice.html)

The solstice is a day of deep historical and cultural significance. Solstice celebrations were a highlight of the pre-Christian calendar, and bonfires, maypole dances and courtship rituals linger on in many countries as holdovers from Europe’s pagan past.

In Canada Aboriginal Day coincides with the summer solstice. It was selected in 1996 after the Assembly of First Nations called for a day to unite and celebrate native cultures. The date had meaning because aboriginal societies traditionally marked the summer solstice one way or another. The Seminole of Oklahoma and New Mexico’s Zuni perform corn dances — for rain and the bounty of maize, bean and squash crops. Similarly, Mohawks do Wainodayo, a dance for ripe strawberries, a fruit believed to renew the spirit. The Dakota hold annual sun dances in North Dakota around the summer solstice, which has been a long tradition of many First Nations from the central North American plains region. (CBC website)

While we did not do a corn dance or courtship ritual, we feasted on fruit, bread, chicken, and bread next to the crackling fire.

We finished off the evening with a marshmallow roast over the fire. Good times!

To read my post on the building of Maggie’s labyrinth, click here.  To read about my solstice installation while an artist-in-residence in Ibrahimpasa, Turkey, click here. To see photos of that installation, click here.To read about our Solstice Nevruz labyrinth walk in 2014 at Barb’s place, click here.

To see more photos, click 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.

Spring Solstice Nevruz Celebration Labyrinth Walk

For our celebration of the Spring Solstice and Nevruz New Year, we laid out a labyrinth in Barb’s garage and illuminated it with LED, tea lights, and candles. We invited folks to join us in celebration by bringing a light source to add to the layout and walking the labyrinth.

While Ty and I worked on the drawing of the classical Cretan labyrinth on the garage floor, Doug and Barb laid out a candle and light path in the backyard.

Although we had diagrams, the labyrinth was trickier than I expected to design; since we did not have enough room for the entire seven circuit walk, we pared it down to five circuits instead.

But figuring out which way each circuit should turn took some careful thought and planning.

After drawing the circuit paths, I decorated the lines with flowers and LED lights while Ty set up the projector and computer equipment at the centre of the labyrinth to project a series of videos onto the garage doors.

At the appointed moment we all walked slowly along the lit grass path, entered the labyrinth, and walked its magical circuit, candles in hand, to the accompaniment of sound and moving video images that covered us in a therapeutic bath of changing colours.

About Nevruz:

Nowruz or Nevruz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in the Persian calendar. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical Northward equinox, which usually occurs on March 21 or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed. The moment the sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year and families gather together to observe the rituals.

Nevruz has been celebrated by people from diverse ethnic communities and religious backgrounds for thousands of years. It is an ancient holiday based on astronomical calculations. Ancient night-sky observers were experts because it was essential to calculate when plants would appear, when a crop should be sown, and when the ceremonies customarily held on special dates such as the spring equinox should be carried out. Western historians believe that the festival originated with the Zoroastrians; the dates for the appearance of this monotheistic religion vary widely from after 330 BC to 6000 BC. However, the ancient Persians believed that this day was the first day of the New Year, hence NawRuz (naw, new; ruz, year) and this belief continues today.

One of the main concepts of Nevruz is the importance of light. It celebrates the victory of a god of light over the powers of darkness, a basic tenet in Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster is supposed to have preached in the royal court of Bactria that there were two forces in the world, good, associated with light, and evil, associated with darkness, and that they were in constant combat with each other. Since the Equinox represents the moment at which day and night are equal, the coming of spring heralds the triumph of light over darkness in the lengthening days. The early Zoroastrians believed that out of this cosmological battle came the origins of life and when the cycle of life began it was called the new day or Nevruz. The nature of the early Nevruz celebrations is unknown with the exception of lighting bonfires. Leaping across them would be part of a purification ritual in which everyone would be rid of their illnesses or bad luck. Rather than leaping over bonfires, or Barb’s fire pit, we lit candles and stepped over them for our ceremonial ritual.

See more pictures here.

At home on the Prairies

Ahhh Saskatoon – the prairies, big sky country. Four of us city gals headed to Central Canada for a long weekend of country fun at the farm. Around here the wheat and canola fields predominate; it’s easy to tell where the farm houses are because they’re the only places where there are small stands of trees in the vast expanse of waving grains. Around the perimeter of Tracey and Darrin’s farmyard they have mowed in the Taydar Trail, a grassy path encircling the homestead.

The fields here behind the Lumberman’s Curve are canola waiting to be gathered up by combine harvesters.

Along the trail are various bits of used and disused farm equipment, boat trailers, huge metal grain bins (I suggested that they be repurposed into above-ground swimming pools), a gigantic truck trailer, and hidden gopher holes.

The big red barn is over a hundred years old and used to store farm equipment and Darrin’s old 1970s Lincoln Continental, its smooth length a wee bit dusty from hibernation.

Of course, the first thing one thinks of when contemplating prairie life is water-skiing … not. But Tracey and Darrin are lucky enough to live only a few kilometeres away from Blackstrap Lake and the mighty Blackstrap Mountain (a tiny pimple on the landscape that formerly served as a ski hill where Darrin learned to zoom down the slopes as a child, whose facility is unfortunately now shuttered).

Darrin’s friend Phil, who lives at the lake, was kind enough to let us use his boat for the day to try water-skiing, an activity that I had tried precisely once previously in those long-ago days of youth up at Pender Harbour. I proved to be hopeless at it, not even able to get my water skis on. Tracey, on the other hand, was a natural; she gave an excellent display of superpower on the water – we were impressed.

After our collective attempt to walk, or ski, on water, we headed to the beachside concession stand to consume the famed onion rings for which this place is known.

Since we’re all about the outdoor activities here on the prairies, the next item on our weekend agenda was biking the Meewasin Trail along the river that flows through the city.

After having rented our bikes at the Bike Doctor we rolled along Broadway and down to the trail that runs riverside.

One of the must-see trail stops is the University of Saskatchewan Sculpture Park, a collection of peculiar cement and metal creations that called out for climbing and crawling along.

This cement dragon boat proved to be a hit with the gang, as we imagined ourselves running victorious over the finish line.

There are several bridges over the river; we picked the very high railway bridge that required pushing the bikes up and down wooden staircases. Luckily one such staircase provided a trough that ran along its length, allowing us to put the bike wheels in a runner that eased its passage upwards.

A surprising sight for me was the flocks of white pelicans cruised over the water. Right near this weir is the rusted hulk of the Varsity Ski Jump, built in 1931, enjoyed for 43 years and dismantled in 1978. From here people could zoom down the shoot onto the frozen river. A nice stop along the east side of the river trail is the Mendel Art Gallery; too bad it’s going to be relocated to a not particularly nice spot further down the river soon.

Back at the ranch, across the street from the farm are two abandoned houses slowing sinking towards the grass, an odd sight against the horizon.

On the farm, Tracey explained to me, nothing is ever discarded; old houses, equipment, metal parts, and the like are saved, just in case they might prove useful again someday. Some obsolete stuff is repurposed into art objects, as in this example made by Tracey.

We enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the canola fields with a nip of wine and a soupcon of bug spray.

Tracey took us for a spin around the neighbourhood, including a visit to the Mennonite cemetery where some of Darrin’s relatives are resting.

And the Dundurn Community Labyrinth, a surprising find that is now unfortunately somewhat overgrown.

We also paid a visit to the local glass blowing studio, the Hot Shop run by a retired teacher and nurse. Al Hiebert was kind enough to show us around this enormous space where they do cold, warm, and hot glass, and also have space for wood and metal working. I have to confess that I was jealous of the incredible studio.

Interestingly, upstairs we came upon a nice stash of mannequins …

On the farm there was a tree … an apple tree, laden with fruit crying out for picking and eating … we obliged.

The final item on the farm activity agenda was metalwork, welding a metal sculpture for the Tradar Trail from the vast collection of metal bits stacked for reclamation. Darrin was kind enough to show me how to use a metal grinder and acetylene torch; I may look like I know what I’m doing but this would be a false impression …

After piling up the metal that we thought we’d use, the next morning was spent creating Frankie, the elephant-man.

As far as welding goes, Barb was a natural … me, not so much.

The amazingly ever-patient Darrin showed us how to arc weld; we discarded the first base for being too flimsy to hold our emerging metal creation. First the crossed legs, the the pelvis and ribcage …

then the ear-arms

and finally the nose and eyes were crafted. Frankie had emerged from the heap of metal.

Supplied with the final touch, a metal chain, our sculpture was then rolled across the lawn for placement on the trail.

Even Tango approves … a great time had by all.

See more pictures of farm fun here.