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.