Memor-y-ial

It’s the end of March, and it came in like a lamb, so you know how it is going out.  The next 4 days promise high winds, rain, freezing rain, snow and sleet.  I don’t think I’ll leave the house if I can avoid it. Storm chips I’ve laid in a stock of “storm chips” for hubby.   That’s become a new tradition in Newfoundland.  For some reason we’ve forgotten that we get snow regularly into mid May and sometimes into June.  Urbanization has made us soft.

But I digress.  The impending arrival of April makes me think of spring, and milder weather, and days when going out and about is fun and you don’t have to wear 4 layers of clothing and boots so heavy you’ll drown in a pothole.  If you go back in my blog posts you’ll find I leave my cocoon in April, take my camera and explore.  Look What the Sun Brought Out! was one such, and you’ll see a photo of a statue on a huge granite boulder, spreading it’s wings and reaching to the sky.  In January I decided it was a good subject for a painting, and Icarus of Bay Bulls appeared under my brush.  Icarus of Bay Bulls

As one does these days, I posted the finished painting on a social media site.  Imagine my surprise when one of my Book Club friends asked, “Did you know that this memorial was erected to my father-in-law?”  I was floored.  We forget how small this province really is.

The memorial was cast by sculptor, Luben Boykov , in memory of Captain Patrick J. Coady and his crew, who were lost at sea in 1994.  The sculpture sits on one of a grouping of 5 large rocks that family and friends brought, by boat, from Captain Coady’s place of birth (Bar Haven), and then dug into ground to stand their guard.

My friend and her family had been very much moved by the painting, and so I was happy to be able to gift it to her.  (But I did have it professionally scanned, should I want a copy.  Or I may paint it again some day.)

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Imperative

Sometimes a story demands to be told, a photo begs to be taken, a painting insists on being created.

About a year ago I painted a few decorative items, just gifts, of a colourful village – my Gaudy Hamlet.

They were pretty and colourful, the flip side depicting a different season of the year.  So I thought why not paint a progression on a canvas, through the seasons of the year.  And so was born, A Year in a Gaudy Hamlet.

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But you would need to know a little about this place I live…The Rock…The Easternmost Province of Canada…This Island in the Atlantic.  We are known for our colourful houses, and most famously for Jellybean Row in St. John’s.  Check out the link for some lovely photos and explanations.

Many of the houses in the small towns outside the city (the smallest, clinging to the shores of the island, called Outports) are made up of Higglety-Pigglety houses that sprung up as sons and daughters built by their parents over the 600 years of our existence.  (Yes we are the oldest inhabited place in North America.)  Usually not as colourful as “Sin Jawn’s”, there were more white houses with green or blue or black trim, or brick red houses with yellow ochre, or yellow houses with white.

I loved my whimsical work, with it’s bright colours and comical fir trees.  The apple tree was one of the few fruit trees traditionally planted here.  Occasionally someone had luck with pear.  And my friends and family loved it too.  I don’t paint to sell, but people wanted prints of this one!  However it talked to me.  “There’s more to the story,” it whispered.  I told my husband, who said, “Why would you want to paint something that isn’t happy?”  And so I left it alone for about 8 months.  But it wouldn’t leave me alone.

You see, Newfoundland and Labrador has seen a constant move from rural to urban.  Outports were isolated, often with no roadway to reach them and transport by boat alone.  This made services and supplies difficult to access.  There was a natural drive to move to where these things were available, but in the 1950’s the government began to initiate moves, because health care and municipal services were so difficult to provide.  People were paid to move.  Some floated their homes across the bays.  Hearts were torn out of families as communities were abandoned.  There are many internet sites that deal with resettlement but here is one to give you a taste.  Resettlement

Shortly before Christmas the whispering got too loud and I started on Resettlement in a Gaudy Hamlet.  The first houses are still inhabited, but soon there is no one to mow the lawns, or rake the leaves, or clear the rocks off the road.  The houses are shocked and surprised.  Why is it quiet?  Where are the lives that once filled them?  Why is there no one to close the doors?  To fix the shingles?  To paint their greying clapboard?  It is sad, as glass breaks and timbers rot.  But it is not ugly, nor without hope.  The trees that were once cut for firewood grow up.  The flowers, wild and gone wild colour the fields.

resettlement These are hidden places, and I have come upon them myself over the years.  Coves where the only indications that someone once lived there, are the square mounds of rocks that were the foundation of homes.  Where the furrows on the hill denote a garden that once held drills of potato and carrot.

“This is the land of dreamings, a land of wide horizons and secret places.  The first people, our ancestors, created this country in the culture that binds us to it.”

~Hetti Perkins

Stories or Statements

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Waiting to Launch – one of the first pieces I painted from a photo I took.

I am not an accomplished artist, nor am I seeking renown.  This will not be a career for me.  This art exploration I am on is following its own meandering path, and a year and a half ago, the path diverged from decorative painting, to exploring subjects in more detail.

You seek, and get a lot of advice when you start this.  Youtube has been a font of tutorials, but I don’t want to slavishly copy them (as they advise you not to) because that is not my work.

The biggest and best advice – “You learn by doing.”  But after that it gets confusing.  Copy old masters; Don’t copy old masters; Paint from reference photos; Don’t paint from reference photos; It’s ok to trace  your reference sketch/photo; It’s not ok to trace  your reference sketch/photo.  You get the picture.

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Frozen Ghost – combines three of my photos to tell a story.

Some of my favourite pieces come from photos I have taken.  Notice I say, “come from”.  I consider it my right to modify as necessary, or not.  And being a new painter, each time I tackle a photo, there is a challenge to present something on the support that I have not done before.  Each time, I am learning something that I can use in future paintings.  But when I showed some of my pieces to an artist and art teacher, who has had a decades long career and whom I respect, I was told that my work, while nice, lacked emotion.  That has niggled in my heart for months now.  There are all kinds of criticisms that I would have expected (on brushwork or perspective, colour or composition), but not that one.  And I have a problem with it.

Each painting I do from my photos evokes a memory for me, and/or tells a story.  Obviously, someone else will lack the frame of reference for the story, but I hope that the viewer can get some sense of it.  Perhaps one day I will evolve to the point of making strong statements with a brush, but at the moment I am giving more of a recitation.  And that is OK.

So if you are struggling with what should be the “right” way to paint – stop struggling.

If it speaks to you, that is the most important thing as you grow.  And try things outside your comfort zone, but not all the time.  Remember, you should be enjoying yourself.

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First Freeze – an ATC I did from my photo of the pond where I live.  The challenge was to learn how to do ice.  But the story is of a particularly beautiful sunset in the place I grew up.  A moment in time that evokes the peace of this place when I was a child.  In this light you don’t see a lot of the changes “progress” has wrought.

 

Another Art Adventure

When we drove to our summer place this weekend, I didn’t expect to begin experimenting with a different medium.  I knew there was a garage sale nearby, of stock from an art shop.  I had never seen the art shop, but had to drop by.  watermarked-cliCC1F

Well the last time I had been to the cabin, I had painted my first Plein Air, of the new house just beyond us in the cove.

Acrylic on 9 x 12 Acrylic Paper.

It was the HOTTEST day, and there was a wind.  (I won’t say breeze – to anyone other than Newfoundlanders it’s a wind.)  The paint was drying before I managed to bring brush to paper.  I was spritzing and on a wet pallette and using blending gel!!!  What a torture!  That was when I decided that I needed to try either different acrylics, or a different medium.

Last week Laura at Create Art Every Day enticed me to try watercolour.  It was not as stress-filled as I expected.  Inspired by a Visitor.  I enjoyed it and will try it again.

20160725_131759This weekend, my random garage sale, netted me some Holbein Duo Aqua water-soluble oil paints.  I didn’t want to come home with a truck-load.  It could have been so.  There were wagon loads of equipment and supplies (literally).  I limited myself to a yellow (Marigold), red (Madder), two blues (Navy and Turquoise), Ivory Black
and a grey (Monochrome 1).  She didn’t have any white, so that grey was as close as I could get. watermarked-SculpinRock Oil.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Voila, my first foray into oils.

This is on a 4 inch square of gessoed cereal box cardboard.  The view from my window.  Didn’t paint outside as it was raining, but it was enough to allow me to experience the texture of the paint.  It is a different process than painting wet into wet acrylic, and you have to remind yourself that it doesn’t dry.  But the rich, buttery texture of the paint is luscious.  And the colours have great depth and intermix beautifully.  And yes, they clean up with soap and water.

I’m quite pleased with it, other than the clouds in my sky.  I realize, looking at the photo, that they are all far too similar.  But in terms of the medium, I’m definitely impressed and will experiment more.

I have to keep reminding myself to “just play.”  I have a failing in that everything I do is looked at as a task with a goal or a product.  I have to let that go.

Enjoy your day, everyone.  And go play.

Römischer Weg

Today we visited a very special German city, Trier.  My first introduction to the town was when I was a teenager.  Germany had not yet realized the aesthetic value of the Roman ruins that were being excavated and you could walk through the rubble of the archaeologists’ finds.  It wasn’t pretty…you didn’t pay entry fees…it hadn’t become a tourist attraction.  20 years later I brought my husband to experience the city.  The streets were no longer torn up, and the ruins were better groomed, but it was still more of a pilgrimage than a sightseeing tour.  We ran from Porta Nigra to Basilika in the rain…without a tour map, depending on the helpfulness of strangers in the street to direct us.  Today, about 15 years later, there are entry fees for everything, tour booklets in multiple languages, and a museum with multiple guards per floor.  2000 year old structures have weathered time, weather, siege and world war.  Yet among the pockmarked stones thousands of thoughtless people have scrawled names, initials, symbols, showing no respect for the global treasures they are defacing.   If you ever find yourself in the Mosel Valley, make your way to the city that was once on par with Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople.

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Porta Nigra - One of 4 gates on the 6.5 km long city wall. The only one still standing.

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View up the 3 levels from inside.

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Along the corridors defenders could repel any attack.

After the Romans had left the city, the Porta Nigra was reincarnated as a church; rebuilt on at least two occasions.  Today it has been returned to a more original state, although the rounded end that would have been the nave of the church remains.

Through the windows of the Porta you can see the countryside, the city, and the Dom.

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Across the river

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The Dom with the Liebfrauen Kirche next to it.

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View into the city from the 3rd level of the Porta. I wonder what a centurion would think to see this?

Walking into the Altstadt we arrived first at the Dom (cathedral). This structure, started 1000 years ago, lies on the foundations of Roman buildings dating from the 3rd and 4th centuries (anno domini). Beautifully appointed inside, with vaulted and carved ceilings and imposing memorials and altars, the Dom houses the Shroud of Turin, which is exposed for view only about every 10 years. Whatever your beliefs, it is an impressive and solemn monument. The Dom museum houses codex & book covers from the early middle ages, carvings from even earlier, and reliquaries from holy men and women, including St. Peter and St. Andrew. Next door is the Liebfrauen Kirche, completely different in style – light and airy.

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Reliquary of the chains of St. Peter

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Reliquary of the sandal of St. Andrew.

Also now used as a church, the Imperial Palace, built by Constantius, and later taken over by Constantine the Great is now the Protestant Basilika. The giant audience hall has had numerous incarnations; as a royal residence, a bishop’s residence, a fortress,
and a courtyard.

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Massive in size, the rubble of centuries has raised the level of the ground around the Basilika.

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The inside space is immense. Can you imagine walking up its length to bring your complaint to Constantine?


Hygiene was of great importance in Roman times, and Constantine had a great plan for the Imperial Baths. While it never came to fruition, most of the structure was completed and then repurposed. There were aqueducts and heating mechanisms, and underground hallways for servants.
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This is only about a third of the structure, which continues off to the right, and is still being excavated.

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A sense of the height. Courses of varying coloured stones were laid, to decorate the building.


That brings us to the Amphitheatre. The location for animal fights, gladiators and executions, the amphitheatre formed part of the city wall, and its entrance was one of the gates.
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This picture, taken from the upper level of seats, gives a sense of how large the arena is.


OK…so I have a new favourite word. The entrances into the seats were called vormitoria
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Love the funnel shape of the Vormitoria...pour them in...vomit them out!

Here it is…the required panorama. What the Christian saw before the lion was upon him.

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Here kitty, kitty.


Below the arena floor are a series of rooms and drains that housed animals and the condemned, and from which each could be brought into the center.
And if you are around Trier in the summer time, the gladiators still compete in the Amphitheatre on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Sounds like a rollicking good time to me.

A Large Day!

Actually, it was a very large weekend.  In my little corner of the world we still celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday on the weekend that includes, or lies before, May 24th.  It’s an excuse to wet a line and bend a few elbows; to get out in the country and have a boil up.  This was a rare confluence of events as we had great weather and enough wind to keep the flies away, and a massive iceberg floating out the bay.

This gigantic block of ancient ice was ponderously making it’s way back out the bay.  Winds were high, and whipped melt-water and steam off the surface.

The bay holds reefs and shoals that have sunk many a ship, and our floating iceberg came upon a rock.  Over the space of the evening it grounded and twisted, the forces of wave and tide and wind torquing through the center.  The back rose, the center sank, the nose lifted.

We had no moon that night, but before all was fully dark I was able to try a long exposure of the two pieces as the berg broke apart.  While the camera was on a tripod, and I used a remote shutter release, the wind blew so hard that there was no way to keep the camera fully  steady.  The lights on the other shore trace a feather into the shot.

The next morning some anticipation woke me at 5.  The sky was tinged with yellow, and the two massive blocks were parted.  The bow well out the bay, floating aimlessly and in it’s way, somehow forlorn.

The stern still firmly anchored on the rock…