Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Colour Over the City Streets

Now that the warm summer weather is here, the National Capital Commission in Ottawa has been fixing up the city streets to make them more attractive for the thousands of tourists who come here every year. One of the things they do is put up banners to celebrate Canada's provinces and territories. I like these banners because they feature works by artists of the province or territory. This banner has a painting by an artist of Canada's newest territory, Nunavut.

This is the banner for the province of Quebec. It looks like an abstract painting, but I am not sure which artist. Whoever it is, I love the colour.

This is the banner for Ontario and is definitely from a Group of Seven painting.

This is the banner for Manitoba. The red is so vivid.

In addition to the banners with art works from the provinces and territories, there are also banners that feature winning entries from a contest for young Canadians. They submit entries on issues that concern them. Some of these banners are quite happy, but some of them are also sad. This one seems very positive and upbeat.

This banner is amazing, with all sorts of things going on. I can see why it was a winner in the contest.

I think this is one of my favourites. Not sure what it represents, but it is very compelling. I will have to go back and look at these again. I am just very glad that the NCC realizes the importance of putting art and colour over the streets.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Sunny Day Stuff

Finally, after weeks of rain and cool weather, we had blue skies and warm summer sunshine today. I was visually receptive to anything that seemed as bright as the day - like these giant daisies in a store window, all in a row, yellow and white.

Then I saw this goofy face on the bottom of a lamp post. I have probably walked past this particular lamp post hundreds of times but today the silly face (heavens knows how it got there) really struck me. Just kinda dumb and funny on a sunny day.

These dolls in a store front display made me laugh. They are called Little Thinkers and, from left to right, there is a Gandhi doll, a Barack Obama doll, a Pablo Picasso doll and a Salvador Dali doll . They look like they've been partying and maybe arguing and are now getting ready to leave. Except for Picasso, who looks like he's had a bit too much and is lying back while the doll behind puts a hand on his head. Aren't they great?

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Things That Didn't Mind the Rain

It was a soggy, soggy weekend and I didn't get outside much. I spent a lot of time in my studio, finishing some drawings for Art Fayre, which is coming up soon. But late this afternoon, it started to clear and I walked around my poor waterlogged garden. I realized that there were many things in the garden that were actually quite happy with all the rain. Like this pretty plant, which has struggled for years and not done much. This year, it is loaded with flowers and looks the best it ever has. So I think it has enjoyed being soaked.

This little frog, sitting on a log (my soggy attempt at poetry!) - he didn't mind the rain. He lives with many brothers and sisters in my water-lily and fish pond.

The pond is very full this year and the water lily pads look happy. They will flower later in June. Doesn't this make you think of one of those M.C. Escher drawings of reflections in water?

These are the last of the tulips. I guess they lasted as long as they did because of the cool, damp weather.

The other things that were happy were the annuals I planted in the garden. Like this beautiful plant, whose name I can never remember. It is very lush and green from all the rain. I guess we can be glad that we didn't have to worry about watering our plants after we put them in this year. Or am I starting to sound to much like Pollyanna?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Aboriginal Awareness Week

This is Aboriginal Awareness Week and there have been a number of displays and performances at Place du Portage, the complex of buildings in Gatineau where I work. This morning, I was walking back to my office after getting a coffee from the food court when I heard music. In a large hallway, these marvellous Aboriginal musicians were playing drums and singing. They were so good I had to stop.

I wanted to get a better picture of the headress on this drummer. His costume was so colourful. Then I noticed a woman beside him, also dressed in a very colourful costume and holding a ceremonial fan made of eagle feathers.

An announcer said that she would now perform a traditional dance called the "Jingle Dance". Her skirt had a lot of bells and they really did jingle as she danced to the music of the drummers. 

I was trying really hard to get a good photograph of her as she danced but ... have you ever noticed how hard it is to hold a camera and take good pictures while you are also trying to find a place to put your cup of coffee? There was a very large crowd watching the performance with me. A woman beside me said that if I wanted to get some great photos I should go to the pow wow on the weekend (info at http://www.odawa.on.ca/powwow.htm)

The woman beside me also gave a running commentary. She pointed out how amazing the dancer's footwork was. It was true - she was mesmerizing to watch. And her dress was so beautiful and colourful. But alas! - I had to leave and go back to work. Oh well - it was an unexpected delight in a rather mundane, ordinary day.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Rescuing Baby Robins

This past long weekend, I spent a lot of time rescuing baby robins. Like this poor little guy, who was alive and unhurt when I found him or her on my deck, fallen out of the nest.

I like robins, but I think they are very stupid creatures. Lovely but stupid. The mother robin of the little guy pictured above built her nest on an outside light under an overhang of the roof. It is not a very secure nest and, I fear, not big enough. I have watched her for weeks out my kitchen window as she built the nest, then recently, as she constantly brought food for her babies. She worked so hard, but her babies were falling out of the nest this weekend.

When I found the little guy on the deck, I hauled out a ladder and set it up near the nest. I don't like climbing up ladders but I was on a mission of mercy to rescue the poor baby.

I picked him/her up (I was wearing green garden gloves) and he/she flopped around a bit in my hand, So tiny and so weak.  

Then I climbed the ladder and set him/her back in the nest. The mother was squawking in a tree nearby, but the little guy was back in the nest and you can see his little head poking up here, along with his brothers and sisters.

Then I turned my attention back to my gardening. It was a great weekend for gardening and my tulips were a real delight. I put in lots of annuals and did a bunch of weeding. But alas, when I went back up to the deck, another baby (or maybe the same one?) had fallen out of the nest again. And again, I rescued it, getting  up on the ladder, etc. My friend Mac was at my place this weekend, doing a bunch of work for me. He also rescued several baby robins. Finally, he jury-rigged a plastic attachment to the nest so they wouldn't keep falling out. The mother seemed to accept it. So here's hoping they will stay in there and thrive and grow up and become not-quite-so-stupid robins as their mother!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Respite from the Rain

After nearly a week of rainy and cold weather, this afternoon the clouds finally cleared away and it got sunny and warm. When I walked home after work, I thoroughly enjoyed the summer-like weather. Walking across the bridge was a pleasure, people were smiling. Then something on the river caught my eye.  

It was a racing scull with one person in it. He was rowing very fast but then he stopped and rested for a minute. He looked very alone there on the river.

But then another racing scull came into view, and a guy in a small motorboat nearby, shouting instructions at them. There is a club on the river nearby and I guess they were taking advantage of the nice weather to get out and practice. This is the first time this year I have seen them. Another sign of the beginning of the season.

I saw about four or five other racing sculls on the river of various sizes with various numbers of crew members. This was the biggest one I saw. I wonder if it would be able to go faster than the others because of all that manpower? Or if the ones with only one guy, or three or four, would go faster because they would be lighter? Whatever! They are beautiful things to watch, gliding so fast across the river.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Art in the Sussex Courtyards

One of my favourite parts of the Byward Market is the Sussex Courtyards, a series of 4 interconnected courtyards that cover 4 blocks between St. Patrick Street and George Street. Sometimes, I like to walk through them all and avoid the noisy busy streets, as I did this afternoon. The first is the Beaux-Arts Courtyard, which is closest to the National Gallery. Very artsy gateway to the courtyard! 

As I entered the courtyard, I noticed some pictures hanging on the wall to the right. I went over to investigate.

This sign was hanging nearby to explain what the pictures were. It is for a project called Portraits in the Street, and includes portraits from the Library and Archives of Canada. Since Canada does not have an actual portrait gallery building (shamefully), this is a way to display them to the public. They will be displayed in the Sussex Courtyards this summer.  

This is a portrait of Callixa Lavallee, the composer of Canada's national anthem. Wasn't he a sensitive-looking guy?

After leaving the Beaux Art Courtyard, one crosses Murray Street to get to the second courtyard, called the Tin House Courtyard.  

It is called the Tin House Courtyard because there is a reproduction of part of a tin house displayed on one wall inside the courtyard. The original was made by a tinsmith who lived in the area long ago. It is a beautiful ornate thing and is even better when it is lit up at night. As you can see, a portrait is hanging under it.

This is a portrait of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada's first French-Canadian prime minister. It is actually a reproduction of a caricature that appeared in Britain's Vanity Fair magazine.

Leaving the Tin House Courtyard, one crosses Clarence Street to enter the next courtyard, Jeanne d'Arc Court. The entryway is very narrow and easy to miss, but it is quite nice and open inside.

In the middle of the Jeanne d'Arc Court, there is a wonderful sculpture of a dancing bear.

The last courtyard is Clarendon Lanes. It is the biggest courtyard and has several restaurants, including Planet Coffee, one of my favourite cafes.

There were several portraits hanging in Clarendon Lanes. This is a portrait of Arthur Erickson, one of Canada's most significant architects. Lots of white space in this portrait, which is appropriate for an architect.

Unfortunately, it was a very cloudy dull day, and the Sussex Courtyards and portraits were not very bright and colourful. Just so you don't think my day was entirely grey and colourless, I took a picture of the tulips in Ottawa's Tulip Festival in Major's Hill Park, not far from the courtyards. Aren't the colours in this bed of tulips amazing?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Things That Cheered Me Up On a Dull Day

The weather in Ottawa has been wretched lately - wet and cold. It has been hard to feel very cheerful on these dull, grim days. But at noon today, when I was in the food court downstairs where I work, I saw this person in a Panda suit walking around. I have no idea why he or she was there, but I ran over and asked if I could take a picture. The Panda nodded and posed. Afterward, we "high-fived" and I was laughing so hard I nearly missed his paw.

On my way home, despite the grey skies and cold wind, my mood was lifted again when I saw this beautiful row of flowering trees (cherries? apples?) in full bloom. Who could not be happy seeing them?

These wonderful, colourful bears were on display in the Bay (of course, since they have the Hudson Bay blanket colours). They looked like good buddies just hanging out together. Very cheerful!

When I was walking through the Byward Market this evening, I saw this amazing little car decorated to look like a cat. The license plate even says "PURRS". Isn't it fabulous?

Monday, 16 May 2011

More Mannequins with Moxie

My fascination with the personalities portrayed by mannequins, in the effort to sell something or other to us, continues. This mannequin seems to be contemplating the pole beside her, but she looks so prissy that I don't think she is capable of doing anything interesting with it!

Here we have a definite Alpha-Mannequin, wearing a red shirt. She is stopping everything, issuing orders, setting parameters, bullying and dominating. The poor mannequin to her right is leaning away from her and looks like she's being very cautious.

This mannequin looks, quite frankly, ruffled!

This poor mannequin seems to be looking around in alarm. Not only has she lost all her hair, she is in danger of losing her head.

Now here's hutzpah for you! These mannequins look like they don't give a hoot about anything, especially the conventions of society and the tawdriness of wearing hair curlers in public. These are my favourite - they've got Attitude!