Monday, 21 November 2016

Last Flowers Before the Snow

Saturday November 19 was a beautiful day for late Autumn. The sun was shining and it was 15 degrees Celsius, very warm for this time of year. I was at my home in the country and looking at my garden when I was surprised to see this beautiful little flower blooming among the fallen leaves. A tiny last splash of colour before the arrival of the snow and bleak white days of winter. 

Then I found another pretty little flower - one of my hardy yellow daisies. What brave little lovelies these last flowers are! 

I went back to Ottawa that evening and the next day it started to snow. At first it was just very wet and melted on everything. As I was walking down a street in my neighbourhood, I saw this beautiful little rose bud. It was even more lovely for being so ephemeral. It will never open into a flower because several hours later, it got really cold and snowed in earnest. By nightfall, everything was covered in thick white snow and the temperatures were well below zero.  Goodbye pretty little last flowers of the year! Your delicate beauty and your brave show before the long cold dark of winter was a wonderful gift. 

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

FEH's Fall Frolic

Last Saturday, October 15, the members of FEH (Fran, Evlyn, and Holly) met to see if we could do a site-specific installation somewhere along the spit in Grenville, Quebec - which is across the Ottawa River from Hawkesbury Ontario. 

It was an absolutely glorious Fall day and the Autumn colours of the trees were at their peak. The sky was a rich blue, the air was fresh, and it was truly inspiring to look at everything as a canvas for a FEH project.  

There were some delicious scenes along our walk, like this one, looking out toward the Ottawa River. 

... or like this one, looking at the reds in the trees on the Quebec shore. 

The walk along the spit took us all the way to the bridge that crosses from Hawkesbury to Grenville. 

Then we spotted this interesting little bush, with a halo of branches fanning out, bare except for the one leaf each branch had on its end. 

We decided to weave and wrap some Fall flora into this little bush, but carefully so as not to disturb the effect of the branches sticking up. We used vines and sumac leaves and fall flowers (especially aster) and any other bits and bobs of colour we could find. 

When we were finished, the little bush looked like an Autumn floral extravaganza. It was really quite lovely! And we were pleased to see that the bees liked it too - they were busy with all the flowers we had woven into the bush. 

Then we signed it, using green ferns. It was hard to keep the letters F, E, and H in place because the wind kept blowing the ferns away. But we persevered! 

We were also inspired by a nearly vertical earth bank to create another installation. So we decided to make a face. We used a couple of flat grey stones for eyes, with darker stones for the pupils, and pieces of sumac leaves for the eyelashes. We used a wonderfully-shaped stick for the nose. And, of course, red sumac leaves for the mouth. 

We also added some vines for hair and a branch to define the chin. Voila! a Fall face! 

And then we signed this piece as well, using some red sticks. (As Holly said, it is a good thing none of us has a name that begins with an "S") 
Altogether a really satisfying day for FEH. And a great way to enjoy a nearly perfect Autumn day!

Monday, 1 August 2016

Doing Tourist-y Things in Toronto

On July 23rd, my brother Paul had a significant birthday (his 70th). My sister and I went to Toronto to celebrate with him. My sister came from Winnipeg and I came from Ottawa, so it was a pretty important visit - it is rare for all 3 of us to get together. We spent several days wining and dining and wandering around the city. My brother decided he wanted to do what all the tourists do and take pictures of us at City Hall in front of the big "TORONTO" sign. So that's what we did. 

It really was a popular place. Lots of people milling about, posing and taking pictures. Paul got pictures of me and my sister, Marilyn, from many different angles. 

And of course we had to do what all tourist do and took a selfie! 

This is one of my favourites because the arches made such a great background. In the winter this is a rink and people skate around here and under the arches, which are all lit up. But the day this picture was taken it was really hot and we were enjoying the weather like all the other tourists! Silly but fun!

Monday, 25 April 2016

FEH's Glorious Spring 2016 Debut

Last Saturday, it was a glorious spring day in Eastern Ontario - sunny and warm, with a lovely fresh breeze. Fran and Holly and I (FEH) decided to create our first on-site installation of the year. We went to Voyageur Park, just east of Hawkesbury and walked along the road, enjoying the views of creeks swollen and rushing from the spring melt. 

We decided to create our work on the beach. During the summer, this would be impossible because the beaches are packed with people. But in the spring, the park is nearly empty and we had the beach all to ourselves. Our plan was to do self-portraits in the sand. We drew our portraits then decorated them with all the found materials we gathered nearby. This is Fran's terrific portrait, with moss and stones and branches and seeds and all sorts of wonderful bits and bobs. 

This is my portrait. I spent just about all my time creating my hair out of pine cones and had minimal decoration elsewhere - just a few stones and some sticks. But the hair really works - it looks like my hair really does. 

This is Holly's wonderful self-portrait. She made this marvelous hat with bits of moss and wood and seeds and feathers. What fun!

All three portraits comprised a triptych - with Fran's (F) on the left, mine (E) in the middle, and Holly's (H) on the right. The portrait of FEH. 

It was hard to get a good picture of all three together. Especially for short little me. It would have been nice if we could have climbed a tree to get the proper camera angle, but of course that was impossible. 

We took a lot of pictures anyway. At one point I saw Holly taking pics in one direction and Fran in the other, which I thought made a funny shot. 

I made one final addition to my self-portrait before we declared the work finished. I really wanted to add more decoration, so put some pieces of bark down to create texture. There! That's better. 

Then we decided to take a pic of our shadows as we stood over our self-portraits. 

On our walk back through the park, we saw a lot of pretty scenes like this. No leaves on the trees yet, but you could feel life returning and plants waking up and the promise of the season to come. A great day for beginnings!  

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Wonderful Water in the Springtime

One of the most wonderful things about the advent of spring is the sight and sound of running water after months of bitter cold during which water was frozen as snow and ice. On a warm day recently, the snow on the roof of my house really started to melt and sent this steady stream of water down a pipe to land on the thawing ground below. 

Another sign of Spring for me is when the snow and ice melt in a small farm pond down the road from my house in the country, creating this rushing waterfall. There are still icicles on the tree branches but they won't last long. The sound of the gushing water is like beautiful Spring music!

When I walk across the bridge from Ottawa to Gatineau every day, I watch the steady progress of the ice breaking up on the river below. The ice formations have been amazing, with great cracks and fissures - like something from an antarctic landscape. But water is now visible in places and there are large open patches of water, as can be seen in the distance. The transformation from ice to water at this time of year always feels like a miracle. Hooray for Spring!

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Doing Selfies - My Way!

I keep a small sketch pad on the coffee table beside the couch where I curl up in the evening. From time to time, I draw in this sketchbook - all sorts of things - ideas, things I have seen, flowers, whatever. And, since there is a mirror nearby, sometimes I end up just sketching myself, doing quick "selfies". They are not like the selfies that people take with their cameras and cell phones - these are quick doodles using whatever drawing tools I have at hand. For example, this super quick selfie was done with black marker. 

This selfie was done with coloured markers but, as you can see, I was wearing a black sweater at the time. These sketches are not intended to be finished drawings but they are fun in the evening when I don't want to do anything too serious.  

This selfie was a real experiment. I had bought some watercolour markers so I tried them out. I drew with the markers and then used a wet brush to get a watercolour effect. 

This selfie was also an experiment. I had some oil pastels that looked like crayons and wanted to try them out. One of the fun things about drawing your selfies instead of using a camera is that you can make yourself look any way you like. I don't have yellow hair but I felt like being a blond the evening I drew this. Why not!

Back to coloured markers. This was a very fast sketch and I would have fiddled around with it more, but it was getting late and I had to get to bed. 
I never set out to do a bunch of selfies but it just turned out that I was the handiest subject some evenings when I felt like doodling. But when I went through my sketchbook recently and realized I had a bunch of them, I thought "What fun! I have been doing selfies - my way!"

Sunday, 22 November 2015

An Afternoon at the National Art Gallery

There are a couple of new shows at the National Art Gallery in Ottawa and I spent a happy afternoon there, checking them out. One of the shows is about a group of paintings Monet produced during an early part of his career. They were really interesting and some of them were very beautiful. People were not allowed to take pictures in this show, but I did take a shot of the entryway, with a big portrait of Monet himself at the entrance, and a large copy of one of his paintings overhead (and a rather tired-looking guard leaning against the wall on the right!). 

The other show is called "Beauty's Awakening" and consists of a large collection of drawings that were recently donated to the National. This large poster of one of the drawings was hanging near the entrance to this show. 

The public is allowed to take photos in this show so I took some pics of drawings I really liked. This is a drawing by the pre-Raphaelite artist, Edward Burne Jones. 

This is a beautiful drawing (I didn't make of note of the artist's name). Seeing these drawings really made me want to pick up my charcoal and start sketching again. 

William Holman Hunt drew this sensitive portrait of his second wife, the sister of his first wife, who had died. It sounds like they had a difficult life at first, but this drawing shows how much he must have loved her. Beautiful! 

After an hour or so looking at the many lovely drawings in the "Beauty's Awakening" show, I wandered into another part of the National. Across the hall were the galleries with contemporary art. Wow! What a complete change of pace. This bold sculpture struck my eye as soon as I walked in the door. The top part has what looks like car parts inside and the white base is an old freezer! 

This room has a huge piece that covers a whole wall. The images are very provocative when you get close to them. 

Then I wandered back in time a bit and found this Henry Moore sculpture in a part of the gallery with mid 20th century British artists. Moore's people always look like they just sat down, leaned back, and don't intend to ever get up again. 

One of the things I like about going to big art galleries like the National is that you really can time-travel there. My afternoon had started in the late nineteenth century, jumped to the present day, then wandered back to the mid-twentieth century, then back even further to the Romantic period. It really was refreshing to the eyes and mind to see all these products of artists from various times and places and to see them all so beautifully presented. Truly a delightful afternoon!