|Posted on 19 September, 2017 at 19:30||comments (0)|
For almost as many years as I've been an artist, I've also been a floral designer. I fell into the floral industry purely by chance. Looking for a job I spotted a piece of cardboard on which there was a handwritten sign propped up in a florist shop window. It said simply, "Artistic Person Wanted". It sounded interesting so I took a deep breath, plucked up my courage and went in. That was the start of my career in the floral industry. I was pretty lucky...the owner of the shop was willling to train me in the ins and outs of professional floristry and I quickly learned how to make arrangements and care for flowers. Since that first position I've worked in many different shops and situations, creating all manner of arrangements for all sorts of occasions. The aspect that I've found most appealing is that you rarely have the same day twice, so it never seems boring. My love for flowers naturally overflowed into my art, and over the years I've produced numerous floral paintings. I'm quite fortunate to have a large supply of many different varieties of flowers and foliage around me on any given day; that provides me with an almost unending source of inspiration, not to mention photographs to paint later. I'd like to share a few of these paintings here.
This piece 'Glorious Gladiolas' was painted from a photo I took of a bucket of gladiolas we purchased at the market. I think the foliage is almost as appealing as the blooms.
This is a commissioned piece in which the client wished to have certain flowers, all of which have personal meaning for her, to be in a "garden" together.
Poppies. For some a cheerful flower, for others a sombre reminder of lives sacrificed for our freedom. I sold this piece and received a much larger commissioned piece from this painting.
These works are just a few of my floral paintings. Flowers never cease to amaze me with their intricacy. The perfect designs of the petals, the foliage, the stamen, even the stems. Mother Nature is a true artist.
Have a blessed week, and try and stop to smell the roses.
|Posted on 12 September, 2017 at 18:20||comments (0)|
The Ultimate Power Couple? I'm referring to Harvey and Irma, who rudely interrupted life for many people these past couple of weeks. Hurricanes of terrifying magnitude, both devastating large areas of the US, Irma also adding many tiny Caribbean islands to her list of achievments.
I've been through a major hurricane, namely Hurricane Hugo which devastated Charleston and the Grand Strand (Myrtle Beach included) in South Carolina late in the season of 1989. Hugo was a Category 4 storm, with a property-destroying storm surge of impressive proportions. We lived in a lovely condo at the time, right on the beach, with ocean views to enjoy from every window. When the talk of Hugo began, perhaps a week or so before, I wasn't overly concerned, having never experienced anything like a hurricane. But of course as the storm approached I began to pay close attention. We were evacuated, as were all beach residents, and managed to stay just slightly ahead of the worst weather but even so it was a terrifying drive where at times there was zero visibility. Incredibly, we managed to find a hotel and stayed there to watch the events unfold. To make a long story short, we were allowed to walk back into our neighbourhood after a couple of days and of course there was pretty widespread devastation. There were random household objects, appliances, bathroom fixtures, clothing and books strewn all about what was once the road. Sand was ploughed out much the way snow is in the winter after a snowstorm. In one area an entire house had washed off it's foundation and was blocking the road. Along the seashore, beach homes stood on their stilts, the ocean facing walls entirely missing, with ceiling fans and light fixtures still attached and swinging lazily in the breeze. What stood out the most however, were the sounds. In the daytime, the constant buzz of chainsaws as people struggled to clear their yards of broken trees, at night the rumbling of the National Guard vehicles patrolling and making sure that curfew was being adhered to. That was the only sound at night, and it was eerie.
This week, as I stayed glued to CNN, all the memories of Hugo came flooding back. My heart is with all those affected by these two storms. First Texas, and then the devastation in the Caribbean, mindblowing in it's entirety, with most structures destroyed, and finally the assault on the Florida peninsula and the Florida Keys. For the past three years, we've travelled to Florida in February/March. This year we drove right to the bottom of the Keys, to mile marker 0, which is the end of the (only) highway that, along with the many bridges connects the Keys together and to the mainland. After Irma, this string of tiny islands, this tropical paradise has been reduced to a scene similar to a war-torn zone. Apparently there were 10,000 residents who refused to leave. It is still not known how many perished due to that decision. Dire circumstances indeed, there is no power, no water, no cellular service and no food. Help is on the way but will be slow arriving.
Last night as I climbed into my bed I thanked my lucky stars that I had that bed to sleep in, hot water to bathe in, and food to eat under my little solid roof.
Count your blessings.
|Posted on 5 September, 2017 at 19:10||comments (0)|
As we are entering the last weeks of summer, just barely nudging the Autumn season my thoughts usually turn to food, harvesting, storing, and preparing fresh produce for winter meals. I'm not a fan of winter but I do love my comfort food.
In last week's blog I mentioned that I've painted a lot of apples. I started to paint them because Meaford (where my house is located) is right in the middle of apple growing country. There are apple orchards surrounding the town, and quite a few of them have small shops on site to sell their apples, pies, and fresh pressed apple cider among other fresh produce. There's something wonderfully comforting about apple pie made from fresh just-picked apples. It seemed natural to paint the fruit for which Meaford has a certain claim to fame.
My first apple paintings I kept simple and small, using a plain black background on which to feature a single apple. I painted a Granny Smith (my particular favourite), a Golden Delicious and a Red Delicious this way. They were well received, especially in Meaford and Collingwood and I sold them all fairly quickly. I tried a few variations; some had bites out of them, others I played with the colours, and still others were of many apples rather than just a single fruit.
Single apples, plain black background.
Started to explore colour reversal.
And 'Apples Of The Rainbow' was born!
I still love to paint this remarkable and versatile fruit. The apple. A symbol to some, a temptation to others.
Have a beautiful, blessed week.. And remember, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
|Posted on 29 August, 2017 at 18:35||comments (0)|
Last week's blog was all about my largest painting so I thought it'd be fun this week to talk about the smallest painting I've ever produced. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of it to share so you'll have to take my word for it. This is how it came about; on the 20th anniversary of the Collingwood Arts and Music Festival, the organisers decided to hold a contest for a themed painting and provided all of the participating artists tiny 2" x 2" stretched canvasses on which we were to create a tribute to the year. I was painting a lot of apples and apple themed pieces at that time so my contribution was a painting of a green apple that had bite marks in the shape of the "20". I just calculated that my smallest piece works out to be 4 square inches, and the mural which was 6 feet, or 72 inches by 50 feet, or 6oo inches is equal to 43200 square inches. Wow! Talk about from one extreme to the other! Incidentally my painting did not win the contest, my daughter won it with her lovely painting of cat's eyes, the highlight in the eye being the "20".
In keeping with the small theme, I've been working on a series of paintings, although they're not quite as tiny as the Collingwood piece. In the past ten days or so I've completed three 4" x 6" pieces, related to each other, so that they could be displayed as a set, but they could work just as well individually. They're all vegetables, and are what is sometimes referred to as "kitchen art", of which I'm a fan. Why not have art in your kitchen? You probably spend a fair bit of time in there and kitchens are the heart of the home, in my opinion so you may as well adorn the walls with art.
Have a wonderful week, I can't believe it's already the last week of August. The summer has really flown by.
|Posted on 22 August, 2017 at 20:05||comments (0)|
Continuing with the theme from last week, I have another great memory of an unusual commissioned piece to share with you. This job was also quite a few years ago and is the largest work I have created so far. The dimensions of this painting measured fifty feet long and six feet high. My "canvas"....was a wooden outdoor fence that stood on one side of the client's inground pool. I was skeptical at first, as not only was the upper part latticed wooden slats, but it was also staggered in height, from left to right, going upwards. My job was to paint a detailed and realistic underwater scene with a variety of the client's favourite ocean creatures swimming around the boat he once owned. A photograph of the boat was provided and a trip to the library proved useful for reference material for the various creatures that would feature in the painting. Now, anyone who knows me also is aware of my extreme fear of water. I love the ocean, and love to walk along the seashore, but if those waves happen to come too close I become a very anxious nervous person. I feel dizzy if the waves surround me, even if they're only inches deep. A hot tub makes me apprehensive. So here I am to work, just a couple of feet away from a pool full of deep water. I knew I had to be very careful. My biggest worry was that I might fall in as I stepped back to see my progress.
The timing of this work couldn't have been better, it happened during summer holidays and my son and daughter accompanied me to this house. They enjoyed frolicking in the pool behind me as I worked. My daughter Lee, (pictured with me below) is also a painter, and helped me considerably when she wasn't splashing about in the water. They were having fun.
As the work surface was so large, and quite dry, having been built a few years prior, I had to consider what paint to use. My small tubes of acrylics would be useless. I had to think on a massive scale. I decided to use gallons tins of latex outdoor paint. I had the sky and ocean colours premixed for convenience and continuity. The primary colours I purchased in smaller quantities, and white and black were purchased in gallons. I used turkey basters to transfer the paint onto my mixing surfaces. The first step was to paint the sky colour to which I added a few fluffy clouds. I used a chalk guideline to make sure the surface of the water was level despite the staggered design of the fence. When the ocean base colour was finally added the fun part began, and all those wonderful ocean creatures began to take shape. My favourite was the orca pair. Such magnificent animals!
The photos below show the progress of the work. I really enjoyed painting this mural but I was always uncomfortably aware of the pool mere feet away. The client was very pleased with the finished work and "unveiled" it at one of his pool parties, which I was attending (safely on the patio!). I had to stand up and take a bow....which was a little embarrassing, but I was happy he liked it.
The finished mural. It took me approximately fifty hours to complete. An hour per linear foot!
Have a blessed week.
|Posted on 15 August, 2017 at 20:15||comments (0)|
Twenty-one years ago, I was offered a most interesting opportunity. My niece, Jennifer Gerlach was producing a music video for The Headstones, a Canadian alternative rock band. Her idea for the video was to include marionettes of the band members, and wondered if I'd be up for the job of creating them. Of course I accepted and was pretty excited and eager to begin. It was decided that the best way to approach the job was to build on plain puppet bodies and within a week or so a box arrived at my house. My excitement evaporated somewhat as I unpacked the puppet bodies and as I looked with alarm from the smooth bare wooden heads to the stack of photographs of the band members I began to realise the enormity of the task ahead. The puppets were completely featureless and had very thin wooden jointed limbs. They had the traditional wooden cross type mechanism with the strings attached to each arm and leg.
After carefully studying each person's features I started to create the facial stuctures with papier mache and pulp made from tissue and glue. This proved to be a bit of a challenge as I had to somehow stabilise the jittery puppets enough to work on them. The stringed limbs and skinny bodies just refused to stay still as I applied the many layers of pulp and papier mache. McDonald's at that time used to give out small white plastic spoons to stir tea or coffee, I painted and inserted the bowl part into the soft mache and pulp to make the eyes. Hair was created with faux fur with the exception of one who had a very short haircut. The rest of the facial features were painted on.
Outfitting the little guys was next and I shamelessly raked about in my family's clothing drawers for similar fabrics to the clothes worn in the reference photographs. No one was safe from my scissors and there was a mild outcry as a pair of shorts ended up with one leg much shorter than the other. I must confess that sewing is not my strong point and all the clothing was glued to the bodies.
Finally the marionettes were completed.
They appear at the beginning and the end of the video that was made for the song 'Cubically Contained' from the CD 'Smile and Wave'. The Headstones released the song in 1996. Here is the link to the video, just hover your mouse right here>>. https://youtu.be/AHVZtB4tFn4
I read a while ago that the marionettes were given to the winner of a contest some time ago.
This is a fond memory of an exciting and a most interesting job.
Have a wonderful, blessed week!
|Posted on 8 August, 2017 at 19:30||comments (0)|
A continuation of last week's blog entry, this past weekend was the Collingwood Arts and Music Festival at the Museum grounds, also known as 'The Station'. This is how the events unfolded:
Saturday: Waking up at dawn I was horrified to hear the steady drip-drip of rain, however it diminished to a fine mist and disappeared altogether on the trip to the site. We had set up our canopies the night before, so all that was needed was to hang the work and arrange the table displays. Things looked quite promising with the sky having "enough blue to make a Dutch boy's trousers" as my mother used to say. It became bright and sunny with the clouds scudding along rapidly, in fact they were moving along at a tremendous speed as the winds picked up and played with canopy covers and toyed with the tents. Our tents were secured somewhat with spikes but there must have been a lot of rock under the grass as the spikes would not go all the way down. Water jugs were paired up and pressed into service as extra weights. This seemed to work quite well but others weren't as fortunate. The violent gusts starting wreaking havoc with tent coverings and display items. Some people simply packed up and left, others tried desperately to hang on to the struts and tablecloths. Everyone's eyes were trained on the skies, which alternated between brilliant sunshine and ominous black clouds. I was starting to pack up my paintings and had my plastic tubs ready to pile them in when I heard one of the judges enter my daughter's tent which was right next to mine. As this is a juried show I didn't want to have the judge see my uncovered tubs and wrapped up paintings so I frantically scampered about putting it all to rights, hoping he would keep on talking until I was finished. I managed to unwrap and arrange everything and cover up the tubs with a tablecloth (they double as display units) just in time. He was completely oblivious and didn't even notice my damp brow.
Eventually the weather conditions won however and the show ended at 1:30pm instead of the scheduled 5pm close.
Sunday: I checked the forecast which predicted a 30% chance of thunderstorms which made me nervous. They never materialised though, we had a glorious mostly sunny and hot day which improved everyone's mood. One of the TV stations sent a videographer to film the event, he was a very pleasant fellow who joked that everyone scattered when he appeared, even worse if he took out his microphone. He did take some great footage of my daughter's paintings which appeared on the CTV Barrie news. There was some alarm when it rained a bit but it lasted only minutes and most people barely noticed. Overall a great day, made even more enjoyable by a visit from a favourite client and the Honourable Mention Award I received for my work. I also achieved a hearty glow on my nose which rivals Rudolph's, but I'm not complaining....I was just so happy to see the sun.
Well it's all over for another year. I look forward to CAMF 2018!
Have a blessed week.
|Posted on 1 August, 2017 at 19:00||comments (0)|
Every August Civic Holiday weekend the Collingwood Arts and Music Festival (CAMF) takes place. There have been various locations for this annual event, but for the past three or four years it's been held on the lovely grounds of the Collingwood Museum.
I've attended this event for the past eleven or twelve years or so. My first year, and two or three subsequent years, CAMF was held in the market square. As it was an asphalt surface the event organisers were kind enough to screw everyone's canopies right into the ground, ensuring a solid connection and somewhat reducing the chances of an airborne tent. Such a theory was indeed put to the test one year when a sudden fierce thunderstorm took us all by surprise, resulting in a fast moving river of water coursing through my daughter's and my tents. Unfortunately we had some damage to our work but at least we were able to prevent the whole canopy from blowing away. Others weren't so fortunate but in the spirit of community many of us rushed to our neighbours' aid as canvas coverings and on one occasion the entire structure threatened to take to the skies.
The next couple of years we were on the street. Part of the street was closed to traffic and our canopies were dotted along the main part of the shopping area. It was fine until the year of the wind. The end of the street faced quite an open area and the waterfront. If the conditions were right, the street became an efficient wind tunnel, causing countless blasts of strong wind. I spent most of the day picking up and straightening my work and actually lost a painting when it blew off my display and was impaled onto the sharp edge of a shelf. My heart went out to the glass artists; the sounds of glass smashing was unfortunately quite frequent.
It was decided then that we should get off the street and hold the event in a parking lot behind the main shopping area. It wasn't windy but it was too far off the main drag for people to realise that we were there, and attendance wasn't as good as previous years.
Finally we have found the ideal place. The grounds of the Collingwood Museum. It's grassed, it's close to a well traveled road, and since we have been here for a few years now, it's quite well known. There's plenty of parking for both the artists and vendors as well as our visitors and it's dog-friendly. It's just such a great atmosphere with local music and demonstrations, a silent auction and of course, the wide variety of artists and artisans. I love this show and look forward to the weekend. Over the years I've formed many wonderful friendships and seeing them each year brings me such pleasure to the show.
If you're planning a trip on the August Civic Weekend, why not come to Collingwood and visit? The museum is located at 45 St Paul St, Collingwood, Ontario.
This is the front view of the Museum. We are at the back of this building.
Have a blessed week.
|Posted on 25 July, 2017 at 19:20||comments (0)|
Ah Meaford. A small town nestled on the shores of Georgian Bay off of Lake Huron in Ontario, Canada. My parents' neighbours in the city moved there after retiring so when it came time for Dad to think about his own retirement they traveled up to have a look, and liking what they saw contacted a realtor to find a suitable home. At first the agent took them to nearby Owen Sound, which is a much larger community but it was on the trip back to the agent's office in Meaford that my parents fell in love with this place. You see, on the road back from Owen Sound there's a hill, and when you descend that hill there's the most beautiful clear view of the Bay and the town of Meaford. They were sold, and bought the house that I also plan to retire to.
Meaford's population is quite small with less than 5000 people. There's a "downtown", which consists mainly of a short strip of independent shops, restaurants and offices. It's charming, typical of a small quaint Ontario town with it's different brick storefronts and nineteenth century buildings. Some of the shops' floors are uneven and the oddly shaped floorplans add to the atmosphere. There's a large Hall, which is home to an art gallery and hosts many different shows, films and concerts. There is a warm sense of community here and there are annual celebrations including The Scarecrow Festival, something unique to Meaford. There's a parade, and the town is decorated with whimsical scarecrow effigies, hanging from the streetlamps and arranged in gatherings on public park areas and buildings. A lot of home and business owners join in the spirit of the festival, decorating their homes, shops and churches with scarecrows. During the Christmas season there's a themed window unveiling by the shop owners. The windows are covered for a week or so while they're prepared for the public view. On that night the street is closed to traffic and shoppers can wander about enjoying treats and hot cider or chocolate while they shop or just browse. It really puts you in a holiday mood.
All of this is a stone's throw away from the beauty of Georgian Bay. There's a small harbour with a pavilion which often used for community events such as fish fry dinners and art or antique shows. The water is often a brilliant blue, even in the winter, quite startling in it's intensity. There is always somewhere to walk and to see here, and I feel quite fortunate to be able to capture a lot of this gentle beauty in two paintings which I have shared below.
This is Meaford Harbour at sunrise. Further along the shoreline.
If you'd like to visit Meaford, it is located on Highway 26, in between Collingwood and Owen Sound. It's a lovely place.
Have a blessed week.
|Posted on 18 July, 2017 at 18:45||comments (0)|
Today is my mother's birthday. To simply say " I miss her" would be the understatement of the century. I spoke to her every day by telephone and she often came to stay with us throughout the years. We still lived in the city, some two hours drive from Meaford where she and my Dad retired. The C.S. Lewis quote sums the feeling perfectly: "Her absence is like the sky; spread over everything." The profound change in me that began when I lost Dad was complete, and influenced the next chapters of my life. This year will be the tenth anniversary of that dreadful year....the year that everything changed.
On a lighter note I'd like to share now a story that is a sort of sequel to my last blog entry although it happened some ten years after. It's about my very first seahorse painting and it came to me in a dream, right down to the exact colours (burgundy and silver) and it's "chessboard" background. When I awoke I just couldn't wait to paint it. I like to think it was another "divine" experience. I've subsequently painted many other seahorses but this one is special to me. I never take that painting anywhere, but keep it in the house at Meaford. I can't explain why I was given that dream, that thought, but it started my love relationship with these fantastic, mysterious creatures....almost prehistoric in their appearance, yet wonderfully agile and graceful.
I sometimes feel the need to break out of painting realism, and seahorses have provided me with that bit of an outlet. I've painted very colourful pieces, as shown below, and in other works have incorporated symbols as in 'Yin Yang Seahorse'. I've never painted a realistic seahorse.
I use that first seahorse painting as my logo, you can see it at the top of this page. Funny I never thought of a title for it....I just realised that as I'm writing this piece.
Have a blessed week!