Wednesday, 26 September 2012


Well, I have finally determined that the wonderful Summer that we have been blessed with here in the Peterborough area has finally come to a close and the cooler weather causes me to reflect on what a fabulous season we have had.

I find it unbelievable that it was six months ago this coming week that David and I played our first golf game of the season!  Yep, that's right, we were out on the course on March 23rd.  Pretty fantastic!  And we've been playing three to five times a week since then.

In my previous blog entry I described to you and included photographs of the changes and additions that we've made to our somewhat 'wild and woolly' garden here at Riverwood.  Well, the work that we did in the Spring and our continued efforts over the past several weeks have given us not only the pleasure and exhilaration gained from the physical work but we've reaped the eye candy that draws us to the riverside of this property at any hour of the day...or night for that matter. 

The gladiolas (or is it gladioli?) in the photo are not from our garden but maybe I should consider growing them...I see them in other peoples gardens so do you think a 'shrub person like me could grow them???

Oh there's no question the our property is on the 'wild side' compared to some of our neighbour's 'manicured' properties but we like what we've got and will continue to keep it as natural looking as it should be.  We've planted just enough 'cultured and proper' plants to give it a more 'city-fied' look without loosing the 'cottagy' look that we prefer.  The birds and small wild animals that visit our garden are numerous and they have come to call our property home.  With 16 bird feeders and a rugged rockery wall with a multitude of hidey holes in it there is plenty of space for all creatures.  

There's been a new addition to our garden and it's something David bought for me.  I love it and it's similar to what I would create if I were inclined to work with another medium other than stone; although, this sort of thing carved in soapstone or marble would be equally as beautiful.  It's the simplicity of the figure I love so much...she looks very much at home in our garden and gives a sense of calm to it so I call her YEMAYA (Goddess of Water). At just under 5 feet there is a quiet elegance to her presence near the river. 


Up until this past week David and I have been able to swim in the river when ever we've felt like it and in the very hot days of July through to mid August that was pretty much every day.  There is nothing more refreshing after a hot couple of hours working in the garden or walking 18 holes of the golf course than a plunge in the cool river.  It's pretty special to be able to do that from your own backyard in the middle of the city!

I am back to painting again and on Wednesday afternoons can be found at my sister Julia's house with Fran and Averill along with Sharon who's just joined our group.  We continue to do our own style of painting and as usual critique each other with authority!!!!  For a bit of motivation we have been painting small items for an event that's coming up at the Art Gallery of Peterborough.  It's an 'art grab' and the event is called 'For the Love of Art'.  Artists are given a 10" x 10" plain frame by the gallery and they can do any sort of 2D or 3D bit of art as long as long as it fits into the frame size. 

I've done two oil paintings of Stony Lake sunsets inspired by photos I took several years ago.  My friends have chosen different compositions and we've all found that it has inspired us to paint with more conviction over the coming winter months.  Of late we've all felt a little hum-drum about our work and we haven't been producing much that we were happy least I was certainly that way.   This little exercise has given us more incentive to 'get on with it' and produce with more focus, energy and vision.  We have a show coming up in May of 2013, at Kawartha Artists' Gallery and Studio, so we better get going and produce work we can be proud of.

The creation of art is a funny and somewhat elusive thing.  How is it that there are times when you can be so 'on' and focused with your work while other times you are totally 'off' and listless about what and how to produce anything.  Writers I know have tried to find an answer to this since time immemorial and it continues to drive creative people to distraction!!!!!  And as we all know distraction is the last thing you need when you're trying to focus on something specific that needs concentration in order to complete it with an unbridled feeling of accomplishment! 

The physical process of creating art whether it be painting, drawing or scuplting requires a huge amount of energy both mentally and physically so for me to reach a stage of 'exhilerated' exhaustion is a terrific feeling.  To step back and say, 'there, it's finished!' is so rewarding.  But often it takes a long time to get there and sometimes there's a very rough patch in the middle where ideas for compositions don't come easily or work doesn't go well and confidence in your creative self starts to dwindle.  

I've had a bit of a 'falling out' with my stone carving...something that's always come easy for me for more than 25 years.  For some reason I haven't been in the 'zone' for a year or so.  There have been many distractions it seems.  Since I only carve outside Spring through Fall is when I usually get my sculpting done, but these past few years I've been spending a lot of time working in the garden, kayaking and playing GOLF!  Golf takes up pretty much a full day if you play 18 holes and relaxing in the garden or by the water is what feels good after a carving isn't what I do!  And last year we were focused on Alex and Joanna's wedding and our trip to Vancouver and Tofino...which pretty much kept our focus 24/7!  So for all of us there's always 'the stuff of life' that gets in the way!  However, for me, I find that eventually my creative 'spirit' gets the better of me and I have to create, so over the course of this summer I managed to work on a simple sculpture that is just about complete.  The composition is a Diving Seal.  It's of African soapstone and is approx. 14" wide x 7" deep x 14" high.   More polishing needs to be done but here it is on my work stand.

I've only worked on it several times during the summer and haven't been as focused as I used to be when I carved but I'm also older now and find that carving for 5 - 6 hours at a time while standing is not something my body wants to do any more.  So now I carve in 2 to 3 hour stints and often don't get back at it for days.  But I still love to carve and it give me a different kind of high than painting. Carving will always be my first love with respect to methods of doing art...probably because it's more physical and you really have to put your whole body into it when your cutting and filing and sanding the stone to finish the piece.  Also, it's 3 dimensional and very tactile...and I love art that you can touch! 

Methods and techniques for artists can be such an individual and personal thing.  I mention above that carving is so physical and that, in part, is because I stand when I work and walk around the piece or spin it when it's on the rotating platform of my workstand.  Not to mention the fact that at some point I actually have to move or lift the piece to a different location!  Many artists prefer to sit when they create and often it is because they cannot physically stand for long periods of time.  Fortunately, I have not come to that stage of my life yet and find that even when I am painting I prefer to stand at my easel.  I have tried the sitting down method but find myself restricted and claustrophobic.  The chair becomes a 'trap' so I find my work doesn't flow as smoothly and I start to get uncomfortable with 'numb bum'!  I eventually end up standing and am much happier for it!  

I think it's so important to breath and relax (and even listen to your favourite music) while you create.  So if I stand I can easily move away from my work, take a 'long view' of the piece and maybe even stretch a little.  It also allows me to check perspective, proportion, balance of the composition, and generally 'get into' the painting with a more critical eye from a different perspective than what a sitting down, up close and in your face perspective gives you.  

Also, some time ago (can't recall who told me this) it was noted that a painting is best viewed from about 10 feet away.  Now I understand that for some miniatures and very detailed pieces of art this might not be true; however, for larger pieces, which I usually paint, it seems to be a good rule of thumb.  So I really like to paint in a space that will allow me to step away to give me a 'gallery visitor's' perspective of what I'm trying to portray.  

In an earlier blog I showed photos and gave descriptions of my favourite stone carving workstand and all my carving tools that I use, mostly outdoors, to create my sculptures. At this point in my blog I'll give you information on:


My studio is set up so that I can move my easel around and get the natural light just right for my work.  

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My large EASEL is my FIRST most prized possession in my studio.  David found it one day when he was riding around the West End of Toronto on his motorcycle.  He had gone into the area where he spent his childhood and on his old street, just a few houses along from the house he grew up in, there was a garage sale and the easel was sitting right in the middle of a lot of 'junk'.  Obviously the heavy 8 foot high structure was not something he could strap on his motorcycle so he rushed home, got the car and drove back to buy the easel.  It had belonged to an artist who had passed away years before and it was just languishing in the garage of the house, unused and in the way.   'Timing is everything' because at the time I was starting to paint more seriously and my canvases were too big for the spindly easel I had been using.  With a few minor adjustments and repairs it was up and in use before the day was over!   It practically touched the ceiling in our old house but today here at Riverwood it sits quite comfortably under a 9' high ceiling with a north/west light falling on it most of the time.  The beauty of this old easel is not it's ability to hold very large canvases but the strong ratchet-style mechanism that allows me to work on any size of canvas at a height that's comfortable while standing. It's extremely stable so I'm confident my work won't slip or wiggle at an inopportune moment! 

My SECOND most prized possession in the studio is my WORK STATION which always stands next to my easel.  When David and I were in a Canadian Tire in Toronto one day many years ago he saw a workshop unit for sale and wondered if it might be a good thing to use in my studio.  I hadn't thought of that sort of thing before and it seemed like a splendid idea so we bought it and headed for home.  David screwed a thick piece of masonite (rough side up so nothing slips) on the top of it and it's been the most wonderful work surface and storage space you can imagine.  I keep all my paint (acrylic and oil), brushes, etc. in separate drawers and am also able to store sprays and fixatives as well as all the bits and pieces of hardware I use for framing and hanging my paintings in the lower, larger section of the unit.  The beauty of the work station is that I can close the drawers and door when I've finished my painting session and my studio (except for what's on the surface of the workstation...generally my oil palette, paint box, a pottery vase full of brushes and a jar of mineral spirits) is relatively tidy with all messy and/or dangerous stuff put away and out of sight.  I like a relatively clean and organized space so it keeps all my stuff covered and in one place.  Also, the work station is on wheels so it can be rolled around depending on the angle of my easel. 

This past week I've been going through what I call my 'Inspiration' files...some are actual files in my studio kept in woven baskets on my desk and others are in my computer or on a disk...looking for an idea for my next painting.  Finally I found it!  It's an idea I started thinking about several years ago and am now determined to resurrect and paint on canvas.  I won't elaborate here on the background of the piece...I'm hoping it will become evident when I complete the painting.   The composition sits on my easel right now in it's rawest form...a quick graphed sketch on a blindingly bright white canvas.  Oh how I hate white canvas!!!  It's so intimidating to me so I'm always pleased when I can get an idea drawn to mess up that 'wicked' starknessl!  I feel even better when I can get the underpainting of the composition completed and I'm on my way to becoming totally immersed in the story of the painting.  The painting process grabs me once the underpainting has given some dimensional structure to the composition.    

I must finish this blog now because I am heading off to paint with my friends.  The new painting will go with me and with luck I will get the underpainting completed today and will return it to my studio with NO WHITE CANVAS showing at all!  At least that is my goal for today!!! 

I'll keep you posted as to how the painting is going with my next until then;