Spring Break…

…painting Walls.

I took this morning off.

Max and I did a round at Frank’s Flats.  There was a chill, but it was so wonderful to get out there and move!  Both of us enjoyed it.  The two of us have been on a retreat, of sorts, along with Peanut-the-cat who is always on retreat!  Max broke one of his claws, to the bleed, on ice, at the start of vacation, so I’ve been wrapping his paw for our modified walks ever since.  And I decided at the start of vacation to paint two of the upstairs bedrooms that have been sporting colours that are dark and lacking cheer.  So, the three of us have been intensely together and I have been involved in the Lenten meditation of painting walls.

The thing about painting walls, with a border collie in close proximity (wandering in with his throw-baby and putting it down again and again in front of my two liter of paint), is that the ritual must begin each time with a vacuum of the area.  And so, unlike past years and zillions of wall-painting experiences, this one has been dragging.  (And you know what the rest of the house looks like when you decide to paint walls, right?)

Anyway….I’m sitting here, ready for the next attack!  I’m eating a home made Caesar salad…squeeze of lemon…ground pepper…lots of garlic!  The floors have been vacuumed throughout the house.  Max is sleeping calmly on his Bambi. (every dog has its place…and Bambi is Max’s place).  Posting some photos of the process and then off I go.

How did you spend Spring break?

The hidden monsters…and something you can not see, unless you are there, washing the  walls! Blahhhh!

P1150927 P1150928Dark Colours and filling holes!

P1150923 P1150924 P1150925Taping base boards, around doors and windows…YUCK! P1150926Cutting in edges with primer!

P1150934 P1150933 P1150932 P1150931 P1150929Rolling primer…

P1150935 P1150936 P1150937 P1150938 Last night, at 10:30…while cutting in my colour, I knocked over my two liters of paint, and with response time being less than ideal, spilled one third of the can over THAT hardwood floor.  This is the floor, after clean-up.  Needless to say, this was the whole reason I am now, finally beginning today’s work.  I considered paying someone to do this work…heh, but then I wouldn’t be having these sorts of experiences!  Have a good weekend, folks!  Stay tuned for photos of the completed projects!P1150939


A Single Calf: The True Nature of Birth

The Cattle Country

Up the dusk-enfolded prairie,
Foot-falls, soft and sly,
Velvet cushioned, wild and wary,
Then–the coyote’s cry.

Rush of hoofs, and roar and rattle,
Beasts of blood and breed,
Twenty thousand frightened cattle,
Then–the wild stampede.

Pliant lasso circling wider
In the frenzied flight–
Loping horse and cursing rider,
Plunging through the night.

Rim of dawn the darkness losing
Trail of blackened soil;
Perfume of the sage brush oozing
On the air like oil.

Foothills to the Rockies lifting
Brown, and blue, and green,
Warm Alberta sunlight drifting
Over leagues between.

That’s the country of the ranges,
Plain and prairie land,
And the God who never changes
Holds it in His hand.

This morning, with the sending of a photograph to my in-box, I had to write about this natural progression of life…birth…the awesome renewal again and again, of nature.  While the stories of our own self-destruction can sometimes fill us with a dark foreboding and the passing of loved ones can punctuate our own mortality, the winter-spring of our lives sheds a sense of hope and of rebirth.  The hope of Easter lives in our hearts.


Tracey Johnstone writes about The True Nature and the poetry of home-birth.

Studying Veterinary Sciences at The University of Glasgow College of Medical, Veterinary & Life Sciences, former student, Justine, is presently gaining a multitude of experience, facilitating lambing in Knighton, Wales.  I can not tell you how excited I am to see the process of Justine’s discoveries, travels and experiences!  The most amazing photos pepper her social media pages and I can not help but feature a couple of them here.  I’m so proud of you, Justine!

Justine Williams 3 Justine Williams 2 Justine WilliamsThrough the process, she has held her first lamb, held and experienced death in her own hands…grown in knowledge and in empathy.  Justine, you are a strong woman!

The snow continues to fall here in Alberta and it’s remarkably cold for this time of year.  In fact, winter persists right across Canada, with a driving blizzard hitting the Atlantic provinces at this time.  In the meantime, mamas are calving out in the fields and calves are at risk.  Shortly after birth, their little bodies are soaking wet and they need to dry off properly.  Presently, they are in danger of freezing before they dry.

My cousin, Margy, has opportunity to work on the Blood Reserve at Standoff and just this morning, she sat drinking peppermint tea in the warmth of a kitchen, while a wee calf was pulled in the cold wintry weather of springtime.  The rancher dragged this sled into the porch where the new babe could dry off a little before being returned to her mother in the maternity pen.  I was so in awe of the intimate photos that I had to publish something in recognition of the vulnerability illustrated in this setting.  My prayers for all ranchers at this time of year.  What a responsibility!

Margy 11 Margy 10 Margy 9 Margy 8 Margy 7 Margy 6 Margy 5 Margy 4 Margy 3 Margy 2 Margy 1

Peanut Meister

This little man takes the back seat to big Maxfield most of the time.  When Max and I head out the door for Frank’s Flats, Peanut takes up residence at the front window, waiting for the two of us to return and is at the door to greet us upon our return.  In the morning, he looks for me to lift my covers and welcome him in next to my warmth…he curls in and purrs and sounds so content. After no more than five minutes passes, he makes his way out to his world. In the evening, he grooms his brother Max…licks his face and his ears and then takes up his spot next to my feet.  He’s been my bud since 1998 and seen the loss of his best friend in life, Laurie-dog.  Peanut is a blessing-cat and I love him.

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Final Stop: The Studio of Mark Vazquez-Mackay

Margy and I got caught up chatting with Phillip and bid Anna and him good-bye with hugs before heading over to Weeds Cafe for a Montreal spiced meat sandwich and Italian soda.  It was a pretty nice feeling.  When you go out on a Love Art in Calgary tour, your brain goes “ZING” and you find yourself processing so much great insight…sometimes it’s a good decision to punctuate!  On we raced to the studio of Mark Vazquez-Mackay.

P1150856Mark’s studio was magical, but how can it not be when he has such a beautiful way of seeing life and his world.  I think that he is extremely generous and very community centered.  His hands and mind are engaged a lot in terms of visual arts in Calgary and we need to be grateful for people like him.  He generates a lot of chatter.  I really do treasure the fact that we got a window into just a small part of what he does and accomplishes.

P1150816I liked learning about his use of ivory black to mix colour.  I liked that he had a Lucien Freud book perched against a wall. (I am nuts over Lucien Freud’s figurative works.)  I was excited to have him demonstrate his exploration of camera obscura, his connection with Vermeer, his insights after reading David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters.  I felt so excited about his vision around public art and his open concept of public art everywhere.  I had a warm heart as he spoke of his son, the innovative and driven musician who worked alongside his Dad to paint his mother’s eyes on his front yard fence. Generally speaking, his time spent with us was jam-packed and invaluable!

P1150832Mark, impacted personally by the spring flood of last year in Calgary, appears to have not missed a heartbeat, but, with determination and resilience, rebuilt and then some.  He is a hero to our arts community.  A good person.

I’ve written sometimes about the objects of our affection…about how our objects hold memory and such.  In Mark’s studio, I felt that I was surrounded in a blanket of so much love, perception and imagination.  Truly remarkable!  Thank you.

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Second Stop: Ruberto Ostberg Gallery

The second space on Love Art in Calgary’s tour yesterday was the Ruberto Ostberg Gallery, tucked away in a quiet residential area in the NW.  Anna Ostberg was very gracious as she shared with us the birthing of her dreams, the history of the gallery, her journey as an artist, mother, wife and business woman and the lively programs celebrated within The Purple Door Art Studio.

P1150814Presently on exhibit, the Bee Kingdom Collective’s Gold!  If you’ve followed my blog over so many years, you will know that I have written about this Collective of glass blowers for a long time now…and I never get tired of the enthusiasm and the positivity that this group of young men generates in our community.

From the ACAD website, this, specific to GOLD.

March 7 – 29, 2014
Roberto Ostberg Gallery | Calgary

Bee Kingdom’s Gold exhibition largely draws from mythology, and its glittery power. The glassblowing collective’s signature style is in abundance in Gold! Tim Belliveau uses new sculpting techniques to create creatures like the mythological winged-Pegasus and the alchemical Green Lion. Phillip Bandura explores the material’s value in society while flaunting his taste for gold and glitter in pieces such as Golden City and Golden Torches. Ryan Marsh Fairweather continues to build on his Weathermachines universe referencing the Hindu Cosmic Egg (also known as the Golden Cosmic Egg), a creation story of the universe. Fairweather has created colourful Cosmic Eggs of his own as well as brand new, super cute, egg-shaped Joybears!

Yesterday, Phillip Bandura shared a wealth of enthusiasm and information about the Bee Kingdom’s process, history and experience.  I was most impressed by his open, humourous and generous presentation.  In fact, as I look at my friend, Wendy’s photograph below…I’d have to conclude that I am completely captivated by Phillip’s talk. My friend, also in the photo, is no less fascinated.

Phillip Bandura talkIt seems during most encounters with the Bee Kingdom Collective,  it is very busy in the hive and I don’t have opportunity to truly connect with the guys.  I thought it was a bonus, on tour, that finally I was able to hear Phillip’s story about his own body of work.  I feel like I know him a bit better as an artist and a friend.  So, thank you, Wendy Lees, for that opportunity.

Still on my list, to learn about Tim Belliveau’s new process…the green glass is intriguing.

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First Stop: Framed on Fifth

My sister-cousin-friend, Margy, and I headed down for our Love Art in Calgary Tour with Wendy Lees yesterday morning, after a nice casual start to the day. Wendy’s signature hot coffee and freshly baked coffee cake were waiting.

P1150730Our first experience was had at Framed on Fifth and a meeting with Hannah White.  From the website,  “Hannah is a University of Guelph graduate with a Fine Arts degree. Framed on Fifth’s owner Hannah White offers a high level of craftsmanship and an excellent eye for colour and proportion. She is an artist and stone carver with over 15 years experience in framing and design.  She opened Framed on Fifth in March of 2011 at the location formerly known as Sheppard Fine Art Services.”

P1150752P1150734Representing local and emerging artists from as far away as Edmonton, there are regular exhibits and openings hosted in this location.  There is an intimate feeling as you step into the space.  Hannah shared this comfortable and warm feeling;  likely the big draw to Framed on Fifth!

Presently on exhibit, Jane Newman’s work.  She is a Banff artist who incorporates mixed media into most of her works, both sculptural and two dimensional collages.  I was fascinated when I got home last evening, exploring Jane’s Blogspot and learning about her processes, artistically, in writing and in horticultural design.  I encourage my readers to take a browse.

I really enjoy that this artist incorporates magical ‘finds’, both natural and person-made, into her works.  The multi-dimensional aspects are very engaging.  I particularly love the piece, all mothers.  Thank you to Hannah for being so engaging and for giving us opportunity to explore a new space.  I hope to make it down for some of the openings.

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Grade Ones Never Fail to Impress

These little gaffers made a real impression!  The white stuff was falling outdoors, but nothing could keep us from thinking about colour, light and flowers in grade one last week.  I spoke to the children for a bit about sitting in Monet’s gardens, perched on one bridge and looking across the water to another.  We talked about flowers.  Aren’t Smart boards wonderful?  Isn’t it a tremendous thing to be able to pull up images of waterlilies to look at on a wintry spring day?  Or to visit Paris in a moment? Or to be able to walk the halls of the Louvre?  Technology is wonderful.

I also enjoy the fact that children as young as this will take on depiction…looking at references and transferring what they see onto a surface.  It’s a brilliant thing watching the mind, eye, arm, hand co-ordinate to do such an amazing thing!

In the end, they decided that the Impressionists liked making ‘smudges’.  So, they proceeded to ‘smudge’, like little worker-ants.  It was a morning of beauty and light.

Thank you to Jon, who cleaned up all the white paint trays.  I am so grateful!

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Grade 1 2014 Monet 8 Grade 1 2014 Monet 7 Grade 1 2014 Monet 6 Grade 1 2014 Monet 5

Grade Fours Make a Hoot!

Textures were achieved by the use of line and pattern…one built upon another to create owls of all sorts.  Aspects of this activity were challenging.  Already, at grade four, you can see where the freedom of childhood drawing is winding up.  The questions are beginning to surface.  Can I do this? Is this good? Does this look like_____?  In the end, the owls have wonderful facial expressions and magical whimsy.

Sometimes Picasso said it best…

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
Pablo Picasso

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Grade 4 2014 Owls 18 Grade 4 2014 Owls 17

A Day Spent With Laura Vickerson

The Esker Foundation opened its doors for a sculpture workshop on Saturday. Working with concepts and cardboard, the day was a celebration of invention.  Laura Vickerson met with us, first, in the darkened theater where our eyes feasted on a collection of images; sculptures created by former students.  I have never thought in three dimensions and signed up for this workshop as a way of moving out of my comfort zone and into space and form.

(I also forgot my camera.)

I wish that I had photographs of the cyclone of cardboard pieces!  The Esker had all materials and tools nicely laid out upon our arrival…caddies filled with straight edges and X-Acto knives, saws and such….stacks of cardboard boxes of every sort…a glue gun section with generous loads of glue sticks.  It was a dream come true for a creative!  WHOOT!

As preparation, on Friday evening, I perused Laura Vickerson’s website and thought a little about paper.  I’ve been working extensively on genealogy and knew that I would be dealing with memory, nostalgia and family some how…blood lines, as inspired by several authors I’ve been reading, memoir.  I just didn’t know what would be happening.

I also read snippetts on line from a context that Laura would be using as motivation for the work, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.

“Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.”
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

“You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living. And the mind refuses to accept more faces, more expressions: on every new face you encounter, it prints the old forms, for each one it finds the most suitable mask.”
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

“The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.”
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

As I went about the house harvesting my own collection of boxes, I knew that the labels were very distracting to me and wanted, already, to minimize the messages that were so dominant AND irritating.  I knew in the morning that I would bring along my bucket of gesso...and even applied a first layer to some boxes before eating my breakfast and while drinking my first coffee.

In the dark theater, I liked the topographical handling of foam core in a few of the student works we saw.  Given more time, I really wanted to build a model of land forms in just that way, but knew that it would be a monumental task for a single day.

The sort of impact I would like to create...given more time.

The sort of impact I would like to create…given more time.

Laura was very supportive.  In her first go-round she seemed to be most interested in observing whether or not we would be using the tools safely.  I know that I would be nervous in a room surrounded by artists carrying knives.  Gradually we all hit our groove…once the anxiety around ‘an idea’ filtered out and we tore into the experience.

Thanks to Doug Haslam and Esker Foundation for taking photographs of my sculpture.

Sculpture Kath 3

Photo Credit: Doug Haslam and Esker Foundation

Sculpture Kath 4

Photo Credit: Doug Haslam and Esker Foundation

Sculpture - Kath

Photo Credit: Doug Haslam and Esker Foundation

Sculpture Kath 2

Photo Credit: Doug Haslam and Esker Foundation.

I could not help but look around me and marvel at the huge variety of approaches that were taken.  I was so impressed with some folk and their ability to manipulate the materials to create crisp, balanced forms.  While my piece feels unfinished, I am delighted with the direction it was taking and with the sorts of things that I learned about myself through the process.

Thanks to Laura Vickerson for her inspiring session and for listening to me as I muddled my way along.  So generous!


There is so much beauty in nature and while I know that these warm and melting days of spring will likely be interspersed with the return of snow, for now, it is such a treasure to notice the birds pairing.  Instinctively, they begin their nesting rituals, all for the protection of fragile eggs.  I am amazed by it all.  I am grateful.