For the Birds

I never imagined I would be so overcome by the mystery and magic of birds.  My body, mind and imagination are being blessed by the standing-still of this…the breath and light and patience of entering into a seldom-noticed world.  If I sit/stand still, it is as though a secret world unfolds to me…even comes to me.  And I remain still, in awe and in gratitude.

The Cormorants are on a migration and have been stopping in to the pond of late.  A Great Blue Heron is alternating between this location and over where the Osprey nest is located, just south of 22X.  At one time I thought that there were two herons, but recently, have decided that there is just one.  The Coots did very well this season and I’ve been watching the juveniles running on the water with their paddle feet, preparing for the next step, flight.  I’ve seen, but not been able to archive, yellow finches.

I’ve recently watched adult Hawks sitting on light standards alongside their offspring, teaching them the ins and outs of stalking and hunting down field mice. I’ve been intrigued by the hunting techniques and feasting of these raptors.  Compare the length of the tail feathers on the adult hawk with those of the juvenile.

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Kath's Canon August 24 and 25 Birds 069

©Kathleen Moors :Adult Marsh Hawk

Today I captured a photo of the youngsters, on its own.  From what I can tell, this is likely a male Marsh Hawk, also known as a Northern Harrier.  You can tell  it’s a juvenile based on its size, length of tail feathers and the maturity of the feathers.

©Kathleen Moors

©Kathleen Moors

The three juvenile Osprey and one adult have been hunting together from the deadwood and the power poles that edge the pond for the past week and a half.  The other adult is most often seen now, closer to the river. I have not seen any of them at the nest until today.

It’s Sunday and I think that as a special treat, a fish was again dropped at the nest because for the first time in quite a while, all three juveniles were in the vicinity of the nest and the adult hung out some distance away.  I didn’t stay long because alarm calls were being given by the two birds that were feasting at the nest.  A somewhat obtrusive photographer with a two foot long lens was laying down in the grass above the nest…so, I don’t know if I was the problem or if the other photographer was.  My photos are taken from a long way off and as a habit, I never get out of the vehicle.  Radio off.  Engine off.  Silent.  Max seems to know the drill also…and even though he is sitting in the driver’s seat, he remains seated and perfectly still.

I like this little series of images of the one left standing on the pole…

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Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 134Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 096The Great Blue Heron, while elusive, has been a constant companion at the pond for two weeks.  Continually relocating as I travel the circumference of the pond, I have seen it fly and watched it feed at the shore.  It’s been heavenly.

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IX. As Patience

Then it picks up one stem leg. This takes time.
And sets it down just beyond the other,
no splash, breath of a ripple, goes on
slowly across the silt, mud, algae-
throttled surface, through sedge grass,
to stand to its knees in water turning
grayer now that afternoon is evening.

Now that afternoon is evening
the gray heron turns blue, bluer than sky,
bluer than the mercury blue-black still pond.

     –from "The Blue" by David Baker

Rumble House: August 26, 2015

I was late and when I arrived, I was kind of jostling and trying to find a spot to sit.  The proper etiquette at Rumble House is to arrive in time to set up and when the artists are painting, yes, interact, but don’t blow the beautiful flow of painting and creating that is happening at the time.  I was ‘the bull’.  Thanks to Jess and Rich for helping me get sorted.
I sat to paint, but had been filled with a bit of a melancholy all day.  I never really know how it’s going to go.  Do any of us?

Presently, I’m listening to Vance Joy’s music on Youtube.  It’s beautiful.  Thanks, Jess.  Two mamas have a little teeny son, August, and Jess woke at 4:00 a.m. with the sweetheart and listened to this.  Such a beautiful song…and it leads to others.  There is so much amazing joy in being engaged with life…but, there is also huge struggle.  Yesterday, my cousin Jaime’s words of sadness and loss hit me very hard as well.  The experiences that we are offered and challenged to face with grace and gratitude are limitless.  Cayley has told me that I’m a bit of an empathic, so again, I feel a lot of this in my bones.

I went out on my walk at Frank’s Flats yesterday early afternoon and the extreme variety of life experiences was exemplified in the glorious and the gut-wrenching pain to be found in nature.  I stalked the great blue heron that had been perching for the past week or so at the pond’s edge…a very nervous bird who shifted its location at the sound of the train or a person walking the path some distance away…agitated…so powerful in flight…so truly amazing in its structure and appearance.

Eventually, I grabbed some shots, not technically astute, but a testament to what I experience daily at the flats.

Kath's Canon August 26, 2015 Heron Dying Bird 080

©Kathleen Moors

This, just across the pond from a coot with a broken wing, trapped in the water some distance from shore.  And…I came home and wrote this.

©Kathleen Moors

©Kathleen Moors

Last night, I tackled a very small panel. I combined a feeling of the claustrophobic experience of grey skies blanketing the sun these last many days due to raging forest fires in Washington, Oregon…dangerously dry country, it seems, everywhere this summer and this bird raising up out of loss and injury and finding wings to fly.  I made an effort to shift the consciousness and to honour the life energy of a single bird.

Congratulations to Jess Szabo on her exhibit of last night.  I’m looking forward to Changing Face, featuring artists Daniel Audet, Amy Gaulin, Aaron Sidorenko, Rich Theroux, Nick Rooney, Brian Flynn, Doug Nhung, Ness Nelson  and Shon Anderson.

I was glad to have connected with Andrea, who took this bird home after auction.  She has such enthusiasm and such an ability to project hope in otherwise hopeless situations.

Kath's Canon Rumble August 26, 2015 051 Kath's Canon Rumble August 26, 2015 050 Andrea and Kath Rumble August 26, 2015I love the energy of the people at Rumble House.  Enriquito, my heart is for you on this journey.  If I can give support, your Godmother-in-art is here for you.

One of my favourite people tonight…Kai, featured here with his painting of Smudge the Shark.

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My Get Away to Visit the Bogners

I got up bright and early and pursued yet another DIY project…the front entrance and closet.  I’m leaving the intense palette at the front door. Ten years ago, I wanted to keep a triad sort of palette going, with the three primary colours, but recently I’ve been muting the colour throughout my living space to create a more peaceful sense. I’m continuing to work my way through various categories inspired by The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and translated by Cathy Hirano.  I’ve still got so far to go, but, at times I can see my space evolving.

This is what this part of the house looked like at 7:30 yesterday morning.  See some history of the objects here.

Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 001I didn’t take a photograph of the inside of the front closet.  Suffice it to say, it was a disaster.  So…I got Max out to Frank’s Flats and then began in earnest.  Does Max look pleased?  Would anyone else publish photographs such as these on their blog…NAH…but, I’m putting them here as a way of explaining just why I’ve been isolating a tad during this summer.  With the broken foot tying me down to this space for all of July, I’ve spent August transforming my spaces, beginning with the top level.  Now, for this one!

Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 067 Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 068 Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 069My place looked just like this, when I got myself cleaned up and excitedly, headed out to the Bogners!  Escape!  Vacation time!  Friendship!  Laughter! Jane and Randy are angels and the day could not have been more glorious for a drive toward the mountains and all that green!  Four dogs are presently sharing their space and so there was extra fun upon my arrival.  It was great to observe and talk about other folk’s DIY projects as Randy has also been up a ladder for a good part of the summer, painting the stucco and window frames of this beautiful home.

Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 012 Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 013 Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 014 Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 016 See all that green…uh huh…see those white window frames!  Yuppers!Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 017 Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 020Moose Mountain, straight ahead…the view from the deck.

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Dog walking, Forestry Way…fun times with Charles, Ripley, Stella, and Juno…Max was waiting patiently, in the DIY chaos back at home.

Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 031 Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 032Looking toward home…gosh, I love this beautiful Juno!

Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 053Do you see her?  Peek-a-boo!

I GOT A STUDIO TOUR!  What light!  What space!  A wood stove and everything!  A potter’s paradise.  The kiln space also wonderful!  And I received the beautiful 60th birthday gift of a Bogner tea pot, fired in this very kiln!  WHOOT!

Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 042 Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 041Arch within the kiln. Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 037East side studio windows…lovely mature jade plants next to a wood fire place.

Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 048North facing studio windows…wowsah!

Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 036The artist stands before the signage for the house entrance.

We finished our tour in perfect time to enjoy one of Jane’s beautiful meals…salmon marinated in olive oil, garlic, ginger, soya sauce; broccolini, garden fresh green beans, tomatoes and roasted potatoes followed by fruit crisp, with bits of lemon and orange zest served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.  Nummers! Wining and dining with Alex, Jane and Randy…a beautiful afternoon/evening after a tour of the studio.  Before the grill…

Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 035 During the service…warm, homemade bread with needle nose pliers. :0)

Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 034Dogs overseeing the operation…

Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 055The feast… Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 058Saying good-bye to exhausted Great Dane, Stella. (and hoping that she would have a good sleep through the night)

Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 064I am grateful for friendships that last the years and believe that they must be preserved and tended with care.  Now that I have found my way out to visit the Bogner’s, I hope to do it again very soon.

Jane Bogner and Me August 22, 2015 This was a delicious holiday experience!  With gratitude, I headed home before sun faded to the west, silently and slowly passing a deer out on Forestry Way…amazed by the peacefulness of the scene.

Back at home, I applied the second coat and began putting my space to rights.  I feel rejuvenated and happy to have had a get away.  It’s been a long summer, but there has been magic along the way.

Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 075 Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 073 Kath's Canon August 22 and 23 DIY Bogner's 072Walls ready for some art and a light fixture crying to be out of here.  When my table was finally clear of the clutter, I set out the gift of a tea pot and felt grateful.  Thank you, Randy.  Its aesthetic reflects that sense that I wish to create in my home.

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Finding That View at create!

There are many approaches taken by artists to achieve perspective and build an accurately proportioned and modeled figure/subject on a flat surface.  They sometimes use a viewfinder when it is difficult to determine the overall composition of their piece.

Some of my readers may not know what I mean when I talk about overall composition…here are a couple of ‘rules’ that any artist can basically ‘throw out’ of their artistic tool kit if they wish…but, I tend to observe these.

In the past, I have used a slide frame as a viewfinder and shared that tool with my students.  What a basic viewfinder will do is eliminate a lot of the chaos that appears around the subject of the piece the artist is composing and crop the piece so that the composition is dynamic and gains interest.

Slide Frame ViewfinderAnother technique that helps to accurately transfer information and placement of content in a composition is to grid both a flat reference or photograph and the larger surface of the canvas/panel or paper with squares of equal proportion.  (The number of grid squares measured on the reference must be the same as the number of grid squares measured on the drawing surface and the ratio of those must be consistent in their ratio, 1:4 for example.) What the viewer/artist sees in the top right hand square is then transferred onto the drawing/painting surface accurately.  Here are a couple of examples of paintings and drawings rendered by my former middle school students, using this technique.  I think that this provides an exercise for student artists in observation and in training those brain/eye/arm/finger muscles to work together.

March 17 2009 Art and Feb Words 130 March 17 2009 Art and Feb Words 035 IMG_8185View finding and using a grid system are only two techniques used to compose.  On this subject, there is a huge and sometimes complex manner of creating a well-proportioned image.  Any and all techniques are available to every artist to the extent that they wish to use them.  It is often a magical thing to make reference to some basic skills in drawing and painting before one tears into self-expression.  If it is not your intention to distort figures in your work, it can be a frustrating thing to do beautiful painting and mark making that is lost because the eye travels immediately to the loss of foreshortening or proportion.

I have randomly selected a couple of videos here that demonstrate formal techniques.

Then…there is also the Fibonacci principle.  Wowsah!

Presently, in Calgary, my friend, Douglas Williamson, is the featured artist at Collector’s Art Gallery.  He has a practice that includes some of the very technical aspects of rendering and painting.  I admire his work and his dedication.

Most of the time, quite frankly, especially during events like Rumble House painting, I ‘eyeball’ it and remember that my teachers always told me that I had a bit of a natural sense for composition.  I just naturally eliminate peripheral visual information that I don’t want included when I am plein air painting or working in my studio.  Artistic style and intention need to be kept in mind and not forgotten.  I think it’s a dangerous thing when one artist tells another how things SHOULD be done.  Some artists work in a purely intuitive manner.

As I’ve discussed before, many contemporary artists access slide projection or image projection in order to create a large and accurate view.  Some among us label such artists ‘cheaters’ and this makes me laugh because typically the connoisseur of art knows little about the process.  Ted Godwin demonstrated his technique for me in his studio, as did Bill Webb. With every brush stroke, the works created by both artists became unique and while accurate in terms of the perspective, breathed the life and human touch not found in a photograph.

P1070233Recently, I saw that a facilitator, Francois Lavigne, at the wonderful create! in East Village had constructed a viewfinder that I thought would be fun to use while doing a seated sketch.

Viewfinder by Francois So, I headed down to see Wendy Lees and the gang at create!, now housed in the Center of Hope next door to the Salvation Army. Present yesterday, were people I care about so much, but haven’t seen for the longest time.  It was nice to meet Margot and Philip Lozano of Momentum, as well!  I hoped to hook up with Francois and purchase a viewfinder…and I did!  WHOOT!

One of the projects during the open session was a section for a Calgary Public Library project in the works at create!  So, I sat down and painted me a panel and ate up the varied and enthusiastic conversations that ensued.  Thanks, Wendy!  Thanks, Francois.  If you are an artist who is interested in the purchase of a viewfinder, please contact Francois directly here.

Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 013 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 012 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 011 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 009 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 008 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 007 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 005 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 004 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 002

Rumble House: August 19, 2015

CalamityRumble House has managed through a summer of floods, four of them…hail and hassle of every sort.  Rich and Jess have managed to negotiate their way through the number of revisions that had to be made to the space, based on damage of infrastructure.  They have done a great job and the space is beautifully changed, more spacious and organized.  It’s been a strange summer for me as well, having to react to a number of events, beginning with my Max’s injury and then my own broken foot on July 2nd.  Rich and I were talking a little about calamity last night and we agreed that sometimes calamity causes our greatest creativity and active engagement.  We go places.

Some years ago, my son and I traveled a journey that I loosely named our ‘Manifest Destiny’ journey.  I finished watching four seasons of Hell on Wheels recently and the trip that James and I took wove through several of the locations featured in this series.

The trek began when we dipped south to visit Sainte-Marie among the Hurons where eight Jesuit missionaries lived, worked and were eventually martyred.  To stand in this place is to recognize, with complete clarity, the collision of two cultures both operating from a sense of protection of their own ways and intentions.  It is an example of colonization and all that can be anticipated as a result.

We then crossed the border into the United States, drove through the land where Dances With Wolves was filmed, saw Mount Rushmore, traveled through the Black Hills, all while listening to Louis L’Amour stories on book tape.  We stood overlooking the hills of Little Big Horn.  We slept in a cheap hotel room in Deadwood and we drove through the Bad Lands.  It was an amazing trip, ending with the sharing of a jug bottle of beer in Billings, Montana.

Wonders 93 Little Big HornI’ve written about Deadwood before.

It was another place riddled with a history of the ‘wild’ west…and so much of it rooted in tragedy.  It was the first time that I really thought about a lot of things.   There were huge issues that I had already read about, feeling very sad about the choices of the past, but helpless to change any of them.  One of the personalities that came to mind once we hit Deadwood was a woman of the west, Calamity Jane.  Last night I painted from one of the photo references that is an early portrait.  Thank you to Teresa for purchasing Calamity at auction.

Last night I painted her.

Kath's Canon August 19, 2015 Calamity Jane Rumble 024 Kath's Canon August 19, 2015 Calamity Jane Rumble 021I am grateful for the people I bump into at the Rumble.  They have become ‘characters’ of my own life…friends…hard workers…creatives.

Calamity Jane…what is fact and what is fiction?

What is the history that we are creating as individuals and collectively?

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A Note From Emily

No, I haven’t written about the Calgary Folk Festival yet!  I haven’t been doing much writing at all.  Instead, I’ve been ploughing through changes to my living space before autumn comes and the world freezes up again.  While I haven’t been able to take on huge tasks, I’ve been able to take on little projects; a little paint here, a little scrub there.

I’ll get back to the writing during those icy winter months, but this morning, with a nice cup of coffee sitting on the desk, I’ve got to write about ‘magic’.  Magic is a word that sums up ideas of wizards in costumes, a deck of cards or hanging upside down in a straight jacket.  Or in a darker sense, it can stir up thoughts of evil and acts that are in opposition to all that is good.  I use the term ‘magic’ in a very benign sense in reference to those moments when the ‘live-er’ NOTICES the beauty in the ordinary, perhaps for the very first time.  It isn’t an easy notion to explain.

While teaching English language arts, I used the book, Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury as a source for these sorts of experiences and asked that my students keep a journal set up in the same way as the journal of the protagonist, Douglas Spaulding.

The novel begins with Douglas’s incantation of summer…

Chapter 1

Dandelion Wine begins with twelve year old Douglas Spaulding lying in the roof bedroom of his grandparents’ house in the pre-dawn hours of the first day of summer. One night each week Douglas gets to leave his family in their house next door so that in the morning he can make the town come alive. He pretends to be in control of the waking town, sending signals to the street lights to go out, telling people to turn on their lights and wake up, and finally beckoning the sun to rise. Douglas ushers in the summer of 1928.

…and five chapters that invite the reader into the awesomeness of little things, like the springing single strand of a spider web that Douglas feels on his face as he steps into a forest. A summary of chapter six then, from SparkNotes.

Chapter 6

Douglas gets out a pad of paper and a pencil while he and Tom are in their bedroom and tells his brother of his plan to keep his own lists. He points out that they do many of the same things each summer, and that a list of those things will make up half of summer but that the second half is made up of the thoughts that you have about those things. As an example he tells Tom how the bottling of dandelion wine is on the first list but that his idea that each time you bottle dandelion wine it puts aside some of 1928 goes on the second list. Tom is confused, so Douglas gives him another example: the first argument and fight he had with his dad is recorded on the first list but on the second list is the thought that kids and adults fight because they are from two different races. Tom understands and tells Douglas that since there are five billion trees and each had a shadow then night must come from all of the shadows coming out.

I began to read aloud to the students (yes…big kids!) during their first class.  We began our school year, as Douglas began his summer. And so too, at the conclusion of chapter six, we began keeping our magic journals, dated from the front and from the back, just as Douglas did in his yellow nickel tablet, making two lists of categories: Rites and Ceremonies, then Discoveries and Revelations.  I came to label the discoveries and revelations part of the journal as magic.

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All these years later, I have students and parents of students, both, who mock the activity and say that back in Junior High they dreaded that journal and sometimes or always ‘invented’ their magic.  It’s interesting that life is just like that…we invest in those activities that we have passion for or that delight us. I reached some and that’s all that I can intend to do when I teach…I hope for all, but I am realistic. I know from the fact that I poured over and read each of these entries over years, that there was genuine investment by most of my writers and I’m hoping that the impact will sneak up on those who invested time and energy and positivity into the act of keeping record through those years, that that particular act will somehow be transformative.

Dandelion and Bee

I’ll never forget the day that I read a young man’s journal (surprisingly, the male writers sometimes wrote the most thoughtful and sensitive pieces about their ‘ordinary’ days), and his rite or ceremony was the fact that he was sitting at his desk eating lunch.  In the back of his journal, under discoveries and revelations, he described his experience of eating a salmon salad sandwich and drinking it down with a cold glass of milk.  I am writing about this entry, simply because it actually brought back thoughts of lunches with my parents.  I hope that this writer kept his journal because his entries were thoughtful, descriptive and so very tuned in to grace.

I continue to keep a number of journals that were gifted to me at the end of several school years, both beautiful blank journals that a number of students gave me for the purpose of my own writing and also copies of their own personal journals, one of them being that of Barrett Schitka.

Magic has continued to happen for me over the years and I look for my own revelations every single day.  It is grace that allows us to see through the drudgery of the ordinary and discover the amazing presence of the divine light in that act or experience.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon assembling Ikea furniture.  Does that drum up an image in the reader’s mind?  It is so.  I was tired.  I turned on the ‘tube’ and leaned back and checked my phone while Netflix came to life.  There, a note from Emily.  I hope she doesn’t mind my sharing it this morning.  Emily, it’s not too late to start keeping your magic journal.

Ms. Moors-
 
I came across the following in a book that I was reading, and although (being in the only Language Arts class that you didn’t teach in eighth grade) I never kept a “magic journal”, from my understanding of what they were supposed to be, this made me think of both magic journals and you. It seems like part of what you were trying to teach (though I may be wrong – in which case, please forgive my misinterpretation), and if it was, then I think that our class missed out on something valuable.
 
“BLEND THE MUNDANE AND THE SACRED: See and appreciate the gamut of life – from the immensity and sacredness of all existence to our need to earn a living and even to our need to eat and afterward wash the dishes, sweep the floors, and clean the counters.” –pg. 59 (Less: Accomplishing More by Doing Less by Marc Lesser)
 
I hope that you are doing well and that we run into each other at church (or elsewhere) someday soon.
 
Hugs,
  Emily
I am blessed beyond belief by the notes that reach out to me from my former students.  I am so very proud of them.  Emily has accomplished so much since leaving Junior High and then High School and barrels on through University years with full participation and engagement. Sometimes teachers can feel as though they are pushing against a giant wall…but, in reflection, there are the many blissful encounters with the kids who stay behind during their lunch and laugh and chat about the ‘real stuff of life’ and sunshine beams down onto all while their teacher paints.
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