Days at the River

I started walking daily at the river, once prompted by a friend.  I remember this friend in the same ways that I remember the pond, where I had for six years, taken respite from the world, from work and from my worries.  I circled the same still water and watched its changes, daily…apart from a very few days when the roads were too icy on the hill to make it there OR when I drove to Ontario to visit my mother…or to be with my loved ones when they celebrated her life.

I became a new person at the pond.  I became a soldier for sustainability there.  I became an observer of what human beings have become, in the order of dismissing their responsibilities to the earth.  My sadness grew exponentially over those years as I communicated with management and staff in many big businesses that surrounded the area, scrolled through sustainability reports,  became an activist with the City of Calgary, and talked about nothing more than what was happening in this single ecosystem.  I picked litter…garbage…most days, filling and depositing bags and bags of human filth by the one bin that remained…”$13 dollars a bin to empty”, the city worker chimed in one day when I asked him, “What is going on with our city?”  He explained that it is a vision for the city that people will learn to take their litter out with them…”much cheaper”.  I sighed.  That was when I began to lose it.  I was crying during my walks, instead of taking in the bliss of the Mergansers, the Pintails, the Coots and Grebes. 

Arriving home to upload my photographs, I would notice for the first time, plastic bags lying on the slopes as Black Capped Night Herons fed.  I’d notice a 2L plastic bottle as a backdrop to the beautiful gesture of a Great Blue Heron.  The evidence of our thoughtlessness was in my face daily.

2015 Pond Study With Litter

I left the pond about a year ago and came to the edge of the Bow River.  I’m still questioned about why the redundant act of circling the same location.  To that, I can only say that by returning again and again to the same place, one really comes to know it…much like being with one person every single day.  I really come to know this place in all sorts of weather and in all sorts of moods.  I notice.  I observe change and transition and presence with a keen eye.  New is easy to see.  I never see the same thing.  And, while there are still signs of human carelessness, I do not directly see the road development, hear the machines or feel wholly responsible to clean up other people’s mess.

I feel as though I am walking in the middle of a Clea Roberts poem when I am at the river…and that is a beautiful place to be.

Mr. and Mrs. 2018 Bow River

Please, if you can, read Clea Robert’s poem, The Forest, from Auguries.  Perhaps then, my readers will understand why I come to this same place.  Blessings for a remarkable day.

First Snow 2018

Katie Ohe’s Idea Books

Perched on Katie’s kitchen counter…a simple black sketchbook…a place to capture her ideas while she is preparing food or perking coffee.  Some of the collages feel so familiar to me.  For one, I also enjoy using found objects such as onion/fruit sacks as underpinnings in my collage work.  Katie lovingly leafed through pages…chatting with us along the exploration.

It was in the kitchen that I shared with Katie how commercial galleries had once owned my spirit…and how, belonging, caused me to freeze.  She received that disclosure with so much warmth.  I will carry the conversation that followed, forever…a very healing experience.

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Morning Sketching: Rien Poortvliet

The last book I purchased at the second hand shop before leaving Belleville, Ontario was the dutch version of Rien Poortvliet’s Noah’s Ark.  It was an absolute treasure at $10.00. As I perused this comprehensive collection of animal and bird illustrations, I thought about how much I could learn by imitating the works contained, as a way of practicing.  It is a controversial thing…using another artist’s work as reference, but I think the important thing is to identify the intention and to be upfront about the practice.  Appropriation in art is a notion that needs to always be given great consideration.

P1120606 P1120607 P1120608 P1120609 P1120610I’ve decided that sharing my morning coffee with an art board is likely a healthy thing and will get me into the discipline of seeing…analyzing…exploring technique…and painting.  I will think of these as quick visual responses to Poortvliet’s works and in no way intend to create accurate renderings.  Beginning with the inside front cover, this morning I looked at these two elephants heading for the ark.  I’ve decided not to go beyond two hours and began this sketch at 6:00 a.m.  I don’t know if I will be able to sustain this practice, but I’m giving it a go.

I would love to hear from other artists about their thoughts on this exercise.  To learn more about Rien Poortvliet, known best for his Gnome illustrations, there are several bloggers who have collected various references about his life.  Look here and here, as a start.  I may just begin another page under the menu heading, ARTIST, where I will publish Poortvliet’s paintings followed by my sketches, but first I’ll see if I can make this a ritual.

A ritual “is a stereotyped sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and designed to influence preternatural entities or forces on behalf of the actors’ goals and interests.