North Country Dreaming

Winter!  Beyond November, it seemed that Calgary would not suffer winter…no snow fell and the temperatures were surprisingly moderate.  But what came to crush us was the current run of sub zero temperatures, -22 with windchill sitting at -37 some days, for example.  We are into our second week of this.

I don’t take my camera out to take photographs on my walks with Max because of the frigid air.  Instead, I perused the images saved to my computer, things I haven’t written about and came to this collection of images from a Paul Kuhn exhibit in April of this year.  Such colour wakes us up from our winter sleep!  Art makes me happy.

My friend, Ed Bader, was featured in the White Project Room, with his exhibit, North Country Dreaming, but first, I enjoyed the bold colour of John Eisler’s (the cast), in the upstairs gallery.

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Ed and I attended the University of Lethbridge in a very  creative and high-energy period of its development from 1973 to 1977.  I include documentation of Ed’s conversation in the following series of photographs because I was intrigued by his large hand gestures.  I’m also including an early photograph of Ed, in conversation with our former drawing professor, Pauline McGeorge.  It appears that he has remained animated!

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1977 Dennis Burton opening

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The following photograph has been borrowed from the Grand Prairie Insider, Tuesday, April 5, 2016.

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Blue Valentine by Ed Bader: Collage

“In 2015 I executed a series of collages based on my 2010 photographs taken at the North Country Fair. The Fair is a recreation, on a smaller scale, San Francisco’s  “The Summer of Love”, with its’ wandering jugglers, clowns and numerous kiosks and festive tents selling alternative health remedies, workshops, massages, international crafts, souvenirs and CDs from the local to international groups that perform. I have appropriated the high key colors, flat florid graphics of California’s Sixties art and counter culture i.e the posters of Peter Max and the art style of the Beatle’s animated classic, “The Yellow Submarine”.  The goal of this body of work is to celebrate the vibrant energy and values of Northwestern Alberta’s own counter-culture.”

I remember that day not being able to really connect with Ed.  Openings are like that.  However, stepping back, I enjoyed watching him make other connections.  I felt very proud of him.  It was a big day.

When winter has you shivering, bring life to your experience by perusing the galleries.  On my list…Glenbow’s Beaver Hall Group exhibit and Otto Rogers at Paul Kuhn.

March 25, 2015: Rumble House

I thought I’d attempt a sketch of a British Home Child on Wednesday night.  Given my connection to this story through my Great Grandfather John Moors and two of his sisters, Grace and Alice, I thought that this might be a subject I would like to explore sooner than later.  I have become very fond of a group of descendants through social media and through connection with people here in Calgary.

I decided to choose as a reference, the face of a boy that appeared as a vintage photograph on the Families of British Home Children / British Child Migrants page.  I chose Edward Seery. Edward Seery was sent out of Liverpool to Canada in 1909.  It seems his brother took the same journey in 1898.  These children were indentured servants in Canada and worked very difficult hours.  Most stories, especially the idea of being separated from all loved ones and finding yourself in an alien culture, were very sad.

I arrived at Rumble House at 7:30 (late again), but finished this first sketch in an hour.  I’ve got no history on Edward Seery and the sketch is not accurate in terms of its LIKENESS, so I brought the piece home and will try another more accurate portrait and post it here.  The facial features in this present sketch are all wrong.

BHC Edward Seery 2  His brother James Christopher Seery came in 1898I’m interested in contacting descendants who are interested in allowing an artist to explore their family narratives from this difficult time in history.  I would like to begin with Edward.  I’m still thinking about the media that I will be using, especially the type of surface I will paint/collage, but I wish to create a body of work that somehow addresses this potent moment in Canadian history.  My opinion only…but, I don’t think enough has been said about this and art DOES speak.  I would like the surface of the paintings to somehow mimic the subject matter.  I will be incorporating text into all of the pieces.

British Home Child March 25 2015 Edward Seery

Photo Credit: Andrea Llewellyn

I was feeling pretty mellow/tired on Wednesday night, but my heart was warmed by the presence of so many artists who I have grown to know and love.  One day, Aaron, I will snapple a piece!

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Art Speaks, so RUMBLE!

I cherished painting last night at the Rumble House.  Stories from Paris were my first stories of the day because, rising early, I had a coffee in my hand and some free time.  I clicked on the news.  Sigh.  Twelve human beings killed.

In the past, I’ve been appalled with satire that was posted on social media regarding MY GOD…MY JESUS…MY LORD.  There’s no way on earth I could understand the inhuman approach to such disturbing images that got a ‘big laugh’ from the throngs of the Faceless Facebook personae.  At the time, I was struggling.  At the time, my Mom was struggling…she was struggling for breath in hospital, having been afflicted with pneumonia.  No one loves/loved Jesus more than my Mom.  So…how did I feel about the public hatred for Christianity…the insensitive portrayal of MY Saviour?  I felt hurt…attacked…defiant.  But, how did my actions play out?  I expressed my point of view on the subject.  I shared my feelings.  I confronted and even celebrated my faith.  I understood that not everyone sees things my way and that doesn’t make me a lesser being and it certainly is no deficiency in the other.

Given who I am, I doubt that I would truly appreciate the perspective or satire shared by the Charles Hebdo weekly newspaper.  It’s just not in me to poke fun at any person’s faith or ideas.  However, what was accomplished by mowing down the lives of human beings who were simply expressing their opinions in a democratic society, can only be described as shocking and deeply disturbing.  I was left speechless as I thought all day about how much I treasure my freedom to express.

So…what did I paint?

I thought about a few different contexts and melded them.  I knew exactly what I wanted to paint.

For one reference, Grampa Moors used to spend hours watching Loonie Tunes, his favourite being The Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.  Grampa, after a day in the woolen mill, would pull down his suspenders and turn on the cartoons, laughing in his way (I can hear it right now, as I type),  while a whole row of youngsters curled up under his arm on the sofa while he did.  I don’t think that there was anything more violent in my childhood than watching this miserable, but somehow hopeful, coyote, blown up again and again or clobbered at the base of a huge ravine by a giant boulder.  He always got up.  Something about the aesthetic and characters of this wee cartoon, reached into me yesterday…and I remember the cartoon with a great deal of affection.

Who might possibly paint a portrait of this violence…and make it seemingly banal and even humourous?  OH!  I KNOW!  Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675)  This would be somehow satirical…right?  How could I build upon this?  The artist paints an artist painting Wile E. Coyote…hmmm….what if the unsuspecting artist has as his possible undoing,  his own subject matter!  A bit of tension.  I KNOW!  Dynamite!  And so the connections developed…I sought out a reference where the subject is Johannes Vermeer, painting…here it is, Vermeer At Easel circa 1662-1668.

vermeer-at-easelI hoped that I might adjust the composition…and modify, knowing full well that I wasn’t going to be able to pull a Vermeer out of my bum in 2 hours.

So, in the end…I positioned the figure on the panel so that I had that space in the upper third…I KNOW…I will include the word SATIRE, for those people who need it spelled out for them.  It DOES SEEM that a lot of people don’t understand OR appreciate good satire.

In the end, I am grateful for the generous bidding that took place on the piece.  I thank Rich and Jess for hosting on a relatively quiet night…grateful for Jennifer and Andy because I always enjoy a good conversation…for Mike who had some interesting things to tell me about Paris…for Gavin who drove me to the station…for Claire, former student, who showed up for her first paint night and for Robb who purchased this piece at auction, but best of all, the offer of rides/support/coffee and just general generosity. I’m richly blessed by this community. (although the set cost for an adult fare on the C-Train IS ridiculous)

Photo taken by Aaron Feser who is addicted to distraction.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd this one by Robb or his buddy…not certain…but, I love it!

Vermeer Paints SatireAnd..this piece of You Tube video…just because I love this song almost as much as Jack White does.

Grade Two Explores Emily Carr

I had a placement this afternoon where the class, in fact, the entire school, had opportunity to watch a morning theater performance, “Emily Carr – Small Wonders” performed by
Canadiana Musical Theatre.  So, it only made sense that I follow that with an art extravaganza in the Grade 2 class.  This class has been helping me with my french lately and this has been great fun.

The inspiration for this lesson comes from Hilary Inwood.  I’ve been pouring over her stuff the past couple of weeks, absolutely in love with the types of small books, and works based on nature and ecology that she has been writing about and creating.  She has a large publication list and I encourage my friend-educators to look her up.  As my readers know, I’m quite big on picking up litter and being a steward of my environment.  I harvested from my own recycle bin and cut up three cardboard boxes this morning to be used in this activity.

First, we got the projector warmed up and watched a couple of short movies about Emily Carr, the artist.  While the children enjoyed the morning performance, they didn’t have opportunity to learn a lot about Emily’s art.  As we looked at several tree and landscape images, we talked about the wind and about the blowing shapes, in the sky, on the land and in the trees.  There was a bit of chat about British Columbia and the big tall evergreen trees and imagining walking through the woods there in the dark.

Before recess, we opened nine factories, most having two factory workers, but some, having three. I reused chart paper that was set aside in the art storage room, as factory place mats, deciding to use that for collage paper later on as well. Here, the students prepared a lot of collage papers in the approach of Henri Matisse, to be later selected and used for creating a personal landscape in the manner and energy of Emily Carr.

So, the factory workers went to work, using white, yellow, turquoise, green and blue tempera paint blocks and large brushes.  A helpful tip is to keep paint blocks out of the individual cupped containers as those are very tricky to clean.  Instead, I just set them out on palettes or margarine container lids.  Much easier to wipe off afterwards. Reminders to the students: “Stroke, don’t scrub, your brushes.”

?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ??????????Time for recess!  Over the fifteen minutes, the collage papers dried and I cleaned out the water containers, the brushes and the palettes.  Ready for students to rumble!

The students entered, rosy cheeked and eager. I projected the following image for some sketching in their sketch books.  I also demonstrated how when we draw evergreen trees, we don’t have to draw all of the individual branches, but can draw big clumps of branches all at one time. Among the Firs 1931

Among the Firs 1931?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ??????????To begin our compositions, we sorted our papers into two big piles on the floor, like piles of leaves.  We talked about the way the wind blows most of the time…side to side…this way and that…most of the time it’s not going up and down.  So, I initially requested a vertical composition (up and down), with the wind motion being wavy, but side to side.  “Mix up your papers, guys, to get lots of variety!”  I had brought a long a bag full of cardboard cut to size (different sizes and shapes) for compositions and a variety of tree trunks, strips also cut out of boxes.

I showed them Above the Gravel Pit by Emily Carr.

AbovetheGravelPitThe results…ta duh!

With advanced and Division II classes, you might add three layers of hills (foreground/middle ground and background)…and several trees.  At all grade levels, given time, you might also want to add textures/shading/highlighting onto the tree forms with oil pastel, before gluing.  Because this is a young group and I am a visiting teacher, one tree did the trick!

Thank you, Grade 2, for the magic of an afternoon making art!

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Tiny Art Books – Tiny Art Galleries

Last evening I attended a workshop facilitated by Emma Bresola and Melissa Centofanti.  It was a wide open creative experience after a brief viewing of the artist-facilitators’ exemplars and hearing about the possibilities.  The give-back to the community was a response to the recent exhibit of Emma and Melissa’s own art books in the Tiny Galleries situated throughout Bridgeland.  It was a fantastic night of creating!

I went with the specific intent of finding continued healing.  With the anniversary of Mom’s passing, I find I am needing to create objects as a way of both journeying my grief and celebrating Mom’s life.  Something so tactile and open-ended as the small books, allowed for that possibility.  The session flew by.  I am grateful for the expertise and guidance of both Melissa and Emma.

From the Bridgeland Community Center, I zipped out to look at one of the Tiny Galleries before the wind started howling and the weather changed.  A beautiful evening!

Melissa and EmmaIn connection with this, I strongly recommend that my readers take opportunity to view the PBS film, Objects and Memory.  This film really spoke to me and as various experiences of loss or destruction confront members of our society, it makes sense that we naturally memorialize through our objects.  I felt this happening as I created my small book.

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Art Flood: Putting It All Together

At four o’clock on April 4th, I delivered our labelled river stories to the Shawnessy Public Library; this, after making certain I took a photograph of each student sitting on the comfy chair, with their art piece on their lap. (these, to be shared with the parents of our classroom only)  Numbered and placed side-by-side, the individual art stories tell the story of a community that struggled, rebuilt and now awaits spring with a certain amount of anticipation. Our class hopes that Mayor Nenshi will enjoy our Art Flood effort and that the City of Calgary will remember the stories of a group of twenty grade ones, living in the suburbs, as being important.  Along with all Calgarians, we remember the flood of 2013.

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Art Flood: Mr. Falcone Cuts Our Community Boards Into Individual Boards

Our shop teacher generously cuts our large boards so that each of 20 children now has their own board.  Time to create our own painting/collage about the river.

“Let’s create a river story of our own.  Maybe each of you can have your very own page!  What is the beginning of the story?  What happens in the middle?  What happens in the end?”

WE COME UP WITH THESE CHAPTERS.

1. Peaceful River
2. Busy River
3. Springtime River
4. Flood River
5. Busy River
6. Peaceful River

We speak with one another at length!  What do we need to put into each chapter?  MOUNTAINS!  We talk about Canmore and the snow melting.  We talk about ice getting piled up.  We talk about how fat the river gets.  Here in the suburbs, the golf course comes up, the bike paths and the walking/biking bridges.  Here in the suburbs, there is talk about people getting stuck.

The Grade ones begin to build their river story with sentences and paint their river.  The river in the Flood River chapter is brown.  We remember the river when it was brown.

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P1150987 P1150988 P1150989 P1150995 The students create their coloured sketches of the Flood River.

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Art Flood: Grade Ones Collage Flood News Stories Onto Community Boards

The grade ones write sentences about happy days on the river and on the shore, skipping rocks and many sentences about fishing!  We play grouping games…groups of two and groups of five…groups of ten.  We look at the pictures of the floods on the front pages of several newspapers.  Using gloss medium, the students coat their white boards, apply the news stories and coat again with gloss.  The children are happy to learn that the white gloss is clear when it dries.

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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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The Melt

For three days, Calgary has enjoyed beautiful temperatures.  It has been a long winter…lots of snow and bitter cold.  In fact, this has been such a melt that on many intersections throughout the city, the drainage doesn’t seem to be sufficient or blocked, to the detriment to some homes.

Mike Drew of the Calgary Sun captured this image of a residence in Sunnyside.

Photo Credit: Mike Drew, Calgary Sun QMI

Photo Credit: Mike Drew, Calgary Sun QMI

In the morning, Max-walking is dangerous, given that this water freezes up and leaves the sidewalks, virtual skating rinks.

Apart from these symptoms of changing weather, there are some beautiful moments in nature.  We just got home from our daily walk about Frank’s Flats and it is absolutely breath taking.  Lately, I’ve noticed magpies flying with pieces of nesting material dangling haphazardly from their beaks as they instinctively prepare their nests.

I’m a huge fan of Duke Farm’s Live Eagle Cam.  It was an awesome thing, this year, to witness the laying of three eggs.  The notations from the site are as follows and a still photo I just saved a moment ago.  I encourage my birder-readers to follow the progress of this family.  What magic to witness male and female trading off places in the nest and sharing the responsibilities for the eggs.  The history of Duke Farms can be read here.

Eagle March 10 2014And for those who think that watching an eagle on a nest is the same as watching paint dry, be advised that last year, this particular event was caught on live cam…

Update 2/24/2014A 3rd egg was laid on 2/23/2014 in the afternoon.  Thanks you viewers for your valuable observations throughout the nesting season.

Update 2/20/2014
A 2nd egg was laid the afternoon of 2/20/2014.

Update 2/18/2014
An egg was laid in the afternoon of 2/17/2014*. Snow in the nest should begin to dissipate as temps rise during the day over the next few days. The cam will remain zoomed close in on the nest bowl to aid in detection of additional eggs.

Update 1/14/2014
Soft grasses are being deposited in the nest bowl to act as cushioning and insulation, these signs are usually a prelude to egg laying behavior.

So, today…teaching grade one…while I was tempted to make art around St. Patrick’s Day, our Lenten Journey, the Stations of the Cross or Penguins!!!  I ended up following my own muse, the nesting birds.  And the children did NOT disappoint.

Where’s our teacher?  Are you our teacher? Yeah! We get to paint!

Off with the coats there, buddies!  On with the shoes!

Who is the engine? Who is the caboose?  The caboose isn’t here!  Oh, no!  Pick a caboose, will you and take this attendance down, please.

Announcements. O’ Canada. Prayer.

I saw a magpie carrying a great big branch while it was flying the other day!

IT WAS BUILDING A NEST!

It’s so warm and the snow is melting.

IT’S GOING TO LAY A EGG!

A nest is like a bowl…do you remember what horizontal means?

WIDE!! (I notice, with this response, that the grade ones have been measuring things…they have a whole new vocabulary!)

Do you remember what vertical means?  You’re right! Up and down!

Today you may choose to build a nest on vertical sky OR horizontal sky…whatever you wish.  Remember that the nest will fall out if there are not enough branches.  I’ll show you a bowl shape in some branches. (I demonstrate a BIG drawing on a vertical piece and then on a horizontal piece of blue construction paper).  Three branches will work…or four…or five.  The nest (to repeat) looks like a bowl.

Grab your chalk…you can do your sketch now.  As I’m stirring up some earth tones of paint at the paint center I ask the children if they remember the THREE steps to painting…

DIP! STROKE!

Oops!  We forgot a step!

WIPE!! 

Yes…please wipe your extra paint off of your brushes.

The students use the paint station with finesse, two hands on buckets…walking…taking turns.  Let’s use the darkest brown for the inside of the nest.  It will show that it is deep and dark…a good place to sleep.  OF COURSE WE CAN PAINT LEAVES!  I quickly mix up five different greens. Trading off begins and the paintings are set aside to dry.

We go to the reading corner to share in the rhyming poem, Five Little Penguins…yes, readers, you’ve got it…same as the Five Little Monkeys!  We talk about visits to the Calgary Zoo.

After recess and recess snacks, we add our nesting materials into the mix…talk about birds collecting strings and grass…and talk about how penguins nest.  We talk about how the Dad sits on the egg while Mama goes to eat fish…and how Mama sits on the egg while Dad goes to eat fish.  We cut and paste and then add in the birds.  BEAUTIFUL!  Let’s set them aside so that the glue can dry.  Hailey says out loud, as she’s placing her nest gently on the corner, “I love mine.”  I think to myself, “This is what’s really important.”

Printing…letter w!  Here we go!

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