The gatherings of friends and family have been wonderful and the feasting has been excessive but Christmas this year has been relatively calm and peaceful. Just the way I like it. Now that the festivities are well and truly over, it’s time to get back into some sort of routine. I am going to make an attempt to write more regularly about my creative ventures, insights and musings but forgo the challenges of making and posting a painting every single day. Doing a painting-a-day for 56 consecutive days leading up to the studio tour of last September provided some valuable teachings, but for now I need to give myself more space around painting and blogging. One of my problems is that I have so many darn creative ideas and so little time to work on them that it’s virtually impossible for me to remain focused on one theme or subject matter for very long. One of the many things that I thought I might do over the next little while is to do a series of small studies of flowers. I’ve rarely been inspired to paint flowers and when I have, it is tulips that have called to me. Part of the reason that I want to do these small pieces of flowers is that it will be a challenge; I set creative challenges for myself on a regular basis. My intent here is to paint quickly and mercilessly. This is much harder than it seems. Yesterday, I made the first flower painting which is shown here. Frankly, I think the glass vessel has been more successfully rendered than the flowers themselves. Let me know what you think.
I gave up the whole Christmas tree thing four years ago, having come to the end of my rope with regards to cutting it down, stuffing it into my tiny car, cleaning out the car when I got home, getting out the saw and cutting a bit off the trunk, wrestling it into the stand so that it would remain vertical and not go crashing to the ground in the middle of the night, getting out the ladder so that I could reach high up above the coat rack to get the boxes that contain the lights and decorations, winding strings of little white lights evenly into the branches (ladder required here too), carefully placing decorations onto the tree where they could best be seen, watering the tree daily, and then at the end of the Joyous Season, removing and putting away all the decorations so that they could fit back into their various boxes, unwinding the strings of lights and carefully coiling and securing them into neat rolls which would keep them from getting tangled, getting out the ladder again to put the boxes back onto the high shelves in the mudroom, dragging the tree outside and noticing that I missed a couple of decorations and then vacuuming up the mess of needles left behind inside. This year, I decided on a whole different kind of “tree” which you can see pictured here. Except for my daughter, Hilary, who rolls her eyes when she looks at it, smiles spread across the faces of everyone else who sees it. Maybe they’re just being polite but I think it’s pretty great and I can assure you that it is WAY easier to deal with than a real tree.
At the end of November, I held my annual Christmas Show and Sale, “Heck the Dolls”, at The Tate Gallery. With cider warming on top of the wood stove and a big, comfy rocking chair nearby for anyone who needed to rest their weary shopping legs, it was a warm and relaxing alternative to the busy, noisy shopping malls. My daughter, Heather, came and helped me set everything up, her experienced eye and hand bringing a refreshing attention to detail and providing a different outlook and approach. It is a very different thing to set up for a show which focuses on gifts along with art and her professional experience made everything look fabulous. The weekend was a great success with lots of happy visitors who were able to cross a few more names off their Christmas gift lists. Here’s a picture of the gallery just before we opened the doors. Can you smell the cider and feel the warmth of wood stove? Yeah you can!
Many years ago, when I was a young teen, I gave my mother a little ceramic girl, thoughtfully curled in on herself, tender as can be. I loved her and so did my mother. Now she has come to live with me. She sits on the window ledge in front of my kitchen sink, tucking herself beside a potted plant where I can look at her a number of times a day. Each time I see her, something around my heart softens. She is the subject of my painting today. It has been a great pleasure to spend such intimate time with her today.
When my daughter was married three months ago, she decided that she wanted a number of old, small glass bottles with a variety of flowers in them as table decorations at her reception. This was something I’d done for years on our dining room table at home and I was happy that this tradition would be a part of such a joyous celebration. Both of us sought out small bottles any place we could – garage sales, second hand stores, antique markets; after all, we’d need 100 of them. Between the two of us, we found quite a number of interesting bottles in an array of different shapes. One of the bottles that Heather found is the one pictured here. I was intrigued by the name on it and did some research. Apparently, back in 1889, an ambitious young many by the name of W.T. Rawleigh decided to quit farming with his father and began selling a small line of “good health products” from the back of a mortgaged horse-drawn buggy. The company is still around today but now the products can only be purchased through an “independent distributer”. Seems as though it’s become a pyramid company, something which W.T. probably never could have imagined in his wildest dreams. It seems as though the original company name was “Rawleigh”, without the “s”, but I’ve not been able to ascertain when or why the change took place. Be that as it may, they’ve been around for a really long time which is pretty darned impressive. It is a lovely little bottle and sitting as it was in my dining room window with sunlight streaming in, it seemed an inviting subject for today’s painting.
In my experience, most folks are either cat people or dog people. When I was a small child, we had a large and happy tiger cat which had five kittens in a box in my parent’s bedroom closet. I’d say that that was fairly magical experience for a child – that’s my recollection of it anyway. To see just how tiny those fuzzy creatures are as newborns, to learn to respect Mama cat and handle her offspring with great tenderness and care only when she was ready for us to do so, to marvel at the fact that the wee ones live for quite some time before their eyes are even open (I was gobsmacked by that one), to observe how solicitous and democratic the mother was when it came to nursing her kittens, to see how quickly they grew and to realise that each little one arrived with its very own personality – these were marvelous learning experiences for us kids. I didn’t know until much later that my father was not a fan of cats. Not at all. To this day, I don’t even know how it came to be that a cat was allowed to come and live with us. But I do recall that she didn’t stay with us for all that long and a few years later, we got our first dog. Sheba was a full grown dog when we inherited her and somewhat nervous. She was not fond of strange men and I was a bit frightened of her at first. But I came to realise that I prefer dogs to cats. Be that as it may, I find cats to be quite fascinating to watch. Their eyes are extremely beautiful and their gaze can be surprisingly focused and intense. They really know how to pay attention. I love how they move and how they drape themselves over things. It’s quite remarkable really. But I have no desire to actually live in the same house as a cat. Painting them is my way of spending time with them in my home and that’s enough for me. So here’s another cat, this one looking very bright and eager. It must be dinner time.
I am not a big fan of factory farming. In fact, I find the very idea of it to be appalling. Where I live, I am happy to report that there is an abundance of cattle, both beef and dairy, grazing freely in the large, grassy fields. When I see them, it gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside despite the fact that I don’t eat red meat or consume much dairy. But for those who do, I believe it is important that their food be produced in as humane and healthy a manner as possible. And that means cattle grazing in big fields and chickens running around, scratching in the dirt and eating grains thrown on the ground for them. I have a few favourite spots near to my home where the cattle roam free and it is those places that have inspired this painting-a-day painting. Moo.
Living as we do near a town with the beautiful Ganaraska River running through it, the local tire store gets annual requests for inner tubes every summer as they are fabulous for floating downstream on a hot day. A number of years back, I bought a couple of them and my daughter, who was about eight or nine at the time, and I decided to try a float one afternoon in July. We started by walking down the road with the tubes perched precariously on our heads to the bridge on Kellogg Road. It was a short walk, only about fifteen minutes, but we were hot when we arrived. Once there, we cautiously launched ourselves into the water and began the lazy trip downstream. I was surprised at how slowly we moved and at how different everything looked from the middle of the river. It took us about an hour and a half to reach our destination right in front of our house and it was an absolutely delightful way to spend some time on a hot summer’s afternoon. Today’s painting is of the first bend in the river which we encountered that day.