Saturday, April 30, 2011

End of April

Suddenly it is the end of April. Painting took a back seat to gardening most of this month. We had a new fence put in to keep the deer out and the dog in - at the back anyway. The newly fenced back garden gave a place to move all the "deer-candy" plants (that used to be protected from deer on our upstairs deck or hidden in the front garden) into the back garden. It also meant moving what we think might be "deer-proof" plants into the front garden. That was a lot of digging and moving and it all needed to be done while the plants were preparing to burst into life - but before the actually did. At the same time, I tried to clean up the newly sprouting weeds and all the fallen branches and fir cones. I spent days grovelling in the dirt and loved every minute of it.

But for the past week I have been working on my painting of a maple tree in Linley Valley. It's at the top of this blog. I am trying to capture a big leaf maple just beginning to burst into life in the mid-April sunshine. The early flowers look like a golden-green halo in the dark green woods. I took the photo I am using as an inspiration a few years a go. It is tough to paint because I am not that good at trees and forests are so complicated. Do you try and put in every twig and leaf or just give a suggestion? Obviously a suggestion is better - but it has to be accurate. You can't have some nice fir branches up at the top of the painting without something further down suggesting the trunk. Then - what is around the trunk. Ferns, moss, salal, huckleberries, dead trees ... Emily Carr abstracted to a green swirl - almost like water - but I haven't tried that yet.

Strangely, the moment I was trying to capture when the maple leaves burst into the sky has now past for 2011. I think it only lasted a day - about 2 weeks ago. Now the leaves grow larger everyday and the halos are now getting quite dense and tree-like.

I spent 3 shifts working at NAC and part of the time I looked long and hard at my VIU Forestland painting where it hung on the wall. I concluded several things - lack of contrast is still a problem, the light in the forest should be at the end of the road (I think) rather than at the centre of the painting, the green background trees should be on the left as well as the right, it should be a bit more twiggy. I am going to revise my painting to make these changes and when I do I will rename it "Path to Ammonite Falls."

A woman came into NAC while I was there and we had a bit of a chat. I told her I was planning to modify my painting and she said - authoritatively- that I couldn't. The painting had been displayed and I would have to start again if I wanted to make it different. Well - hmmm- I disagreed - politely. It's my painting and I can do what I want with it. If it had received an award I would agree it was finished - but since it didn't - it must be a work in progress. So I will try to make those changes and see how it looks.

One thing I have learned - you can't know if a painting is finished until you have lived with it for awhile. No-one can tell you it is done.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

After the Spring Show Case

Tonight was the awards night for the NAC Spring Show Case. I had kind of been hoping I would get at least an honourable mention for the painting I submitted - but I didn't. The painting that was awarded first prize was very beautifully executed and interesting - an almost photographic water colour of a moose in the middle of a modern city. It is very dramatic and well-related to the the theme of Earth Day if you think of it as showing the changing earth. Moose country is being replaced by cities - only the image of the moose remains. The second prize went to a drawing of some roots and dandelions - again very realistic - almost like a photo and beautifully executed. Honourable mention went to a large stunningly colourful and dramatic acrylic of a scene on the Dempster Highway. I think all the winning paintings were excellent - but I don't want to change my painting style to be more like theirs. There was only one painting in the show that I really wish I had painted - an impressionistic interpretation of tree trunks with a lake behind. It didn't win an award.

Some VIU students were at the show when I got there after Dog Obedience Class. One of them commented that he liked my painting and we had a chat about Ammonite Falls. He was a forest fire fighter. I'm OK with all of this. Phew!

I bought some new art books from Chapters today - two on Emily Carr and one on Van Gogh. They are all old books and out of print I think. I can hardly wait to see them - especially the Van Gogh which is supposed to include reproductions of his complete works. Poor Emily and Vincent both had troubled difficult lives. How lucky I am to be living the life I do!

On a more practical note, I changed the name of our company today from Enablink Enterprises Ltd. to Chuckling Chimes Ltd. It was a fairly simple online process. The concept is that I may actually make some money from my paintings and cards and would therefore be able to charge my expenses to the company. The company has been more of less dormant for years - we only really used it about 20 years ago when Mike was working in third world countries helping people learn how to set up credit unions. We have paid our annual report fees every year since - but nothing else has happened. I would like to get the company active again. Of course, that means I would have to sell somethingt!

I haven't done any painting for more than a week because I have been busy "gardening." Now that we have deer fencing around the back of our property, I have been moving deer-proof plants to the front and deer "candy" to the back where it will no longer get eaten. Already (one week) there is much more growth in the back - particularly snowberries - than there would have been if we hadn't had the fence put in. The deer often come up to the fence and stand looking at it. "Where did this come from?" The dog loves the newly fenced area - and races up to the top of the hill to check out what is going on and bark at the deer. We hope our back garden will become a green oasis in an urban deer desert.

One of the best things about having a new dog is learning about the new ideas on dog psychology. People now think that dogs instinctively assume that they are living in a pack. They are always ready to take on the role pack leader if humans give them signals that this is what they must do. Most dog problems arise from dogs thinking they are pack leaders. The most important thing, according to Cesar Millan, is to be "calm assertive" and follow a few simple processes that give the dog the impression that you - not it - are the leader. Being "calm assertive" means that you decide who you want to be and go about your business without getting yourself and everyone you know all riled up. You send out positive energy. Mike and I are working hard at being pack leaders and finding it to be a whole new very interesting world! Also it is working - Lexy is a changed dog.

So - back to calm assertive painting soon!