how we learn

IMGP0289How we learn, it seems to me, is much like how we see. We are each given our own set of tools to bring to an experience and the backpack – our vessel, in this case the soft part that sits inside the cranium, to carry away the pieces we keep.  For three days I attended a master painters workshop last week and I carried away the bits I will use, the broader bits I will smile to have seen and the bendy bits that were a consequence of place and time. It worked out fine.

I have done few workshops in a large part because of my learning style. It can be for me frustrating and for the group potentially distracting though i try to keep myself near a door! I am it would seem  challenged by the process of being a student. I think about the year I helped in a kindergarten class and how my heart would squeeze for the little ones that stared longingly out the window. The ones who wanted to draw at listening time, or listen at singing time. or have their snack when they were hungry rather than wait for a clock. They always seemed in whatever way to be out of sync in one perspective but I know their secret was the strength in the call of their own unique path. IMGP0085

In the room where tables were set with easels and tubes of beautiful colored paint and newly stained brushes a wall of windows streamed with sunlight. I knew from when the blinds were opened I would be in trouble. The park outside is a well used one, a water feature for kids to play and school groups and families filled the space. The jewel in the shade was down a sloping path where on two sides of earth sat ponds and a wet land fringe. Cattle in the adjacent field made soothing sounds, birds of many kinds flapped and chattered in the spring job of attending to new life. Each day I began, and slipped in many visits to the pond. In those moments a coot family came very near and a yellow headed blackbird landed briefly on my toe. I can still feel the weightless curl of his tiny  feet. It was a wonderful few days.IMGP0099

My friend snapped this picture of me ‘hard at work’  😉 which I must admit I rather love. I was vexed with forgetting a camera card, buying a new one which turned out to be flawed, but on the second day another friend brought me a card to borrow and it was like finding a gift you weren’t expecting, delight! IMG_3234photo credit, Dawn Scott

The painters style while beautiful, is not one I would see at the end of my brush but some interesting tricks of colors mixed I had not considered previously will become part of my palette.  I also watched with fascination the building of a piece that was quite stunning using steps that I had not imagined.  I confirmed my growing understanding around ways of seeing and combining visual input are within a very broad spectrum. Ingrid Christensen, another master painter shared in a lecture, we see differently, one way is not right and one wrong, they are simply different. It is quite mesmerizing to see through another viewfinder, quite different from your own.IMGP0109

The trick of a workshop for me is choosing one that while dissimilar to my own style and goals gives recipes for some ways of inclusion.  In that I do not become confused on my canvas with what is mine and what was borrowed. Always there are other participants that I also learn from and lovely shared company, discussion, coffee breaks and strawberries! I think my ‘perfect’ workshop would be a variety of demo’s to attend ( I learn by seeing) some paint out options (sometimes i need to make visual notes or just to put my hands in), a beautiful setting (to fill the pumpy part of the vessel we link to love and spirit) and no pretense of a painting to take away.  It is not required to validate my weird visual notes, they are for me alone 😉 and while it may seem territorial, if you paint on my canvas I can’t reclaim it, it is no longer mine. I have learned in a few steps to hopefully quietly and hopefully politely take what i need.  However you play the game, there is so much room to interpret, we all win! 😉 IMGP0194

Check our Michael O’Toole for a look at the beautiful work from the instructor. Thank you for sharing your expertise.



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in the pines


It started on Sunday, looking up a song from the series Justified and the play list from u tube on the edge of my computer had a list of blue grass/ blues/ and a Nirvana song. I couldn’t imagine the common ground but as soon as I hit the play button I remembered how much I loved their rendition of Where did you sleep last night. It has been playing in my thoughts from a whisper to a roar for the past couple of days.  Wikipedia states: “In the Pines“, also known as “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” and “Black Girl“, is a traditional American folk song which dates back to at least the 1870s,[citation needed] and is believed to be Southern Appalachian in origin.[citation needed] The identity of the song’s author is unknown.

 This is what I would consider a creative haunting.


Yesterday while gardening had been the plan a too close encounter with the bear family brought me to the drawing table. I looked across to see a textured black coated canvas and plopped it on the easel. I have been loving the deeper shadowy places of spring, the way light falls and fractures through the forest on the way to the earth, or the bottom of the garden to that place where blues turn to purples and disappear to dark ground below.  ‘I stayed in the pines where the sun never shines,  i would shiver the whole night through ‘. FullSizeRender (69)

A slip of orange butterfly weaves and dances from the open field along the edge of the woods and disappears into the mystery of darkness.  I feel drawn to follow its flitting movement, a meandering walk into the lesser known. This is a place I like to take my imagination, to find and explore a less obvious beautiful.  The way we see and represent is such a personal journey.

a morning fb post from a gifted photographer

Photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in something ordinary. It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.
I do not spend a lot of time painting flowers though I love my garden, I adore flowers in doors.  in paintings, Georgia O’Keefe (everything) and Monets waterlilies stir my heart. The holding something until you are finished with it aspect as well – Monet is said to have painted the waterlilies over 250 times in his carreer, a fact I find staggering.  Back to in the pines, Huddie Ledbetter, a.k.a. Lead Belly, recorded over half-a-dozen versions between 1944 and 1948, most often under the title, “Black Girl” or “Black Gal”. 
So is there a point to this ramble?  I have been exploring my process. Where is the beginning? Is it in putting materials together, pulling paints choosing grounds and surface? Is it in the image refinement and alteration or is it somewhere deeper, a dream space that is simply triggered when your eyes fall upon the familiar?  For me the question has more value than the answer. It is a kind of push against the door and as I can only speak from the space of my own experience in the world of women I think there is also desire to be known, to be seen in  the mysterious and darker places without judgement.
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It’s a long steel rail and a short cross tie
I’m on my way back home
In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines
And you shiver when the cold winds blow
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images very early of a work in progress.

good god its morning / good morning god. -a matter of perspective.


After a substantial amount of rain, after many attempts to bank and trench the stream, after road closures and small slides at our house we got off lightly. Not true for many in the community and my heart goes out to those who lost much. What a mixed weekend this was.

I am going to skip straight through to Sunday because it was the best kind of day. The sun was shining when we woke, the osprey circled overhead as I walked out to the burgeoning green. The horse chestnut leaves are opening like a clasped hand released. Letting go of the tightness and tension of outgrowing space and making breathing room. The larch is feathery brilliance, the first green is gold.IMGP5087

Spring is so much about hope, renewal and fresh starts. I love having a spring birthday because that means I get to make my new years resolutions all over again. There is a happy feeling of possibility.  It’s true, you can do it anytime so go ahead and borrow my spring birthday to make your own new list.

Sunday we shared a birthday celebration for Riley (who is 9), my heart swells as he slips his hand in mine to walk me across the parking lot and into McDonald’s for lunch.  The disjointed calamity of multiple conversations flood around me, family over-speak, laughter, a comfortable chaotic interchange. Time is sweet and rich in the company of childhood, perhaps in part because like spring it is fleeting and in our awareness of its time limit all the more precious. With that in mind, I have some advice to offer –


There are pockets of day in the spring where light is just simply irresistible – when possible trade this for nothing you cannot live without. Find an old chair, one that wraps around you like an embrace, best when warmed by sun, and sit a spell. Studies show this is to be a value just in case you were unable to get there on your own.


Be mindful of the community. Life is ever shifting, changing, balancing and dancing on a spiraling continuum at a dizzying pace. For a time in my early childhood I lived in a big city. I vividly remember being in the backseat of the car with my face leaning against the window as rain fell and lights reflected from the passing stream of cars. I would start by imagining one story, and then recognizing that every car had a person or more with their own story, every house light had things happening central to their cast of  characters. My head literally hurt with the largeness of the concept. Over time I learned to reverse that to the simple but important reaity, every story matters.


It is simply a matter of perspective. Spiral up, funnel down. Vast and infinite, or a pinpoint of focus. Life is, spring reminds us about change, growth, abandon of old perimeters, and if that isn’t a joyful sound I guess I should commission a study.

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5:30 alarm

If I plan to leave the house by 7, I need to be up early enough to consume copious amounts of coffee before springing into action an hour later, time for a fast shower and pulling myself together to fly out the door. I can’t even remember how this worked when I had an actual schedule but this is how is sort of goes now.  The hour of caffeine and scrolling my computer screen, a walk through checking all the window views to see if wildlife is visiting, and finally on my way I remember I am excited to be going. As the drive is an hour and change I always enjoy car pooling with like minded friends to save gas and build energy, the chatter builds atmosphere. Saturday was a pretty though brisk day and we were pumped to hear the speakers at the Oasis symposium and to watch the demos in the afternoon. If you aren’t into visual arts, it might seem equal to the excitement of watching paint dry but there is a range of presentation styles to suit most viewers and I know from dragging a reluctant husband through more than one of these deals, you don’t have to be a painter to engage. I think of Robert Genn or Robert Bateman, both lectures shared with and enjoyed by my non painter husband.  You don’t have to be a painter, but it probably helps (permission to bail here). I didn’t bring my camera as a conscious choice, so this is a story with word.


The first of the three artists to speak was Andrew McDermott. He gave a wonderful story supported with a slide show of his personal history as an artist  known for his vivid pastel and acrylic paintings though he also showed beautiful oils. His range is broad in subject matter with a preference to city scapes, water views with reflected color and life drawing that haunts my life drawing sessions with images of how it could look. I appreciate most art but find myself looking for familiarity, what is like my vision – as such found myself drawn to beautiful black and whites with just a hint of color. The phrase I took from this speaker was, paint what you love. Simple and familiar but if I had a tape of the delivery you would understand how sincere and while simple, profound this statement was. Paint what you love. I will leave this part here.


The next speaker was the dynamic Charlie Easton who spoke about the journey from the UK to Canada, his family history full of artists and his personal path as a landscape painter. He shared a slide show of plein air experiences from mountain tops to lakesides that inspired the question, how do you get your stuff there! From Mr. Easton, I enjoyed the inclusion of a personal motto, maximum fun, minimal fuss, (though I think I have messed up the words a bit as I do not take notes, but that was the intent). The words I took for myself are ones I have experienced as a photographer. If you do not come away with a painting that is to keep, come away with the experience.


It will be hard for me to be concise with what I share from the presentation from Ingrid Christensen because I found her words a personal gift. I have admired her beautiful loosely rendered but wonderfully accurate figurative and portrait paintings for some time. It isn’t a style I have worked with to date but would like to explore. Bold confident brush strokes and color magic, who wouldn’t! If you know me and have been present through a  rant  on my sense of how limiting and detrimental to personal growth expectations can be around keeping work within a spectrum you can imagine how freeing it would feel to hear expressed as the artist, your opinion is the only one that matters. This of course may not lead to commercial success or accolades but it is about artistic integrity. Her presentation on how we become the artists we are was fascinating and I will look for a follow up text to allow the ideas to plant seeds of questions to ask myself.  It only matters, what you think in regard to your work and your journey as a painter.


As mentioned early in, I did not bring my camera to this event. My daughter sent me texts throughout the afternoon of a chrysalis opening. The beautiful luminescent wings of a cicada entering the atmosphere. New life is always a celebration. All life is beautiful. I felt an actual pang of regret in being unable to be in two places at once, indoors at a lecture series I was deeply enjoying, outdoors in the sun miles away. When I sat down to write these words I wondered how I would decorate the page and then the perfection of the phone snaps my daughter shared came to mind. We are all if we are lucky on this painters path emerging artists. To stagnate for fear of trying something new would be a kind of injury to the spirit. An 11 hour art day concluded  with addition of a concert shared with my husband sinking deeply into the soft cushions of a sofa in the casually beautiful setting at the ugly mug. Listening to local musicians, my heart felt so in awe of the breadth of creative energy.  May we all find the freedom to continually stretch and grow.

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The long way home


The show opening was well attended, and the art was gorgeous. Awards were given, photos taken, snacks shared, a lovely night. In the morning while having breakfast we went over the stops and errands list, I said with sadness I don’t think we will have time for the back road home. As we completed the first errand, Ed took a sharp turn and we abandoned the list and traded two hours for forty minutes highway drive on the first leg of the back road.


Always a joy to see the big horns though yesterday we encountered two beauties the mamas and babies remain on higher ground and well tucked in. The smell of damp sage was akin to spiritual. We went in search of meadow larks, but while their songs were plentiful, we saw them in glimpses while they flitted into seclusion. The fancy part of pairing is behind us, but babes will follow.


We saw one deer and then stopping and looking closer we realized a herd was in the brush and while you would see an ear, or a bit of a back for the most part they were well hidden. It is such a nice feeling to know they are protected in this kind of bracken where you really do have to look hard until you see.  Of course there are a few, wide open, uninhibited spirits that live with little fear.


The hint of gold was on the mountain in the form of clustered wild flowers waiting for a bit of warmth from the sun. We take what we can get this damp cool spring!


We drove slowly, with our windows open. We could hear the meadowlark, robins, and bluebirds sing. There were rustlings in the the sage and in the intricate shadow painted where the light fell through pine our eyes actively sought sign and motion. We had left behind the city feeling on the first few miles of dusty road. I am days out of my studio and I feel that call, but the garden is waking up poking through the debris of last years growth. The first humming bird showed in the hedge last night, and my aunts asparagus quiche recipe has been propped on my kitchen windowsill for a week now. It is the time of ground violets and green buds, and if you go looking for meadowlarks but find mountain sheep, well, that’s okay. There is a Swedish proverb that translates, for those who wish to sing, there will always be a song.


the joy is in the journey.

“Let’s go out past the party lights
Where we can finally be alone
Come with me and we can take the long way home”

Norah Jones

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The tools for the job….


Now you might understandably think the burrowing owl bag had a couple of winery bottles tucked inside, and once it did and it wouldn’t have been a bad idea but today it is a hammer, tape measure, and tape. In my purse a framing level and comfortable shoes. I am up before six to get on the road with a painting friend to transport eight amazing pieces from five diverse painters to the old courthouse venue in Kamloops and the FCA Thompson, Shuswap, Nicola, open show.

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Happily the rain has stayed away which makes moving fragile pieces a bit less stressful. I dodge potholes like an obstacle course pro hoping when I deliver the  pastel portraits wrapped and propped, all of the powder will still be attached to the page! (it was they aren’t nearly as fragile as I fear. Side note, The Scream – Munch is pastel on paper.) I have watercolor and  inks, vivid acrylics, and oils round out the offerings. We arrive in time to avoid the sketchy elevator and make the two story dash up and down the stairs several times and unwrap all the cargo before the hanging begins.

This is a lot trickier than it sounds. There is much to consider in finding a flow. You want every painting to have companions that neither over power nor compete with one another . Ones that are reasonable as subject partners, ones that draw the viewer from one panel to the next, and ultimately feel harmonious without becoming boring. Then there are the physical challenges, measuring, sizing, straightening, strengthening wires and hammering in nails to the right depth and angle to sustain the weight of frames etc. It is a task that requires a lot of patient people working together to come to consensus with an eye on the clock!

IMG_3608 (1) My inclusion is ‘boy in the sun’. It is an oil on paper picked up from the framers yesterday for delivery today. (just to keep things exciting!) It is part of a series celebrating the contemporary competition pow wow. This moment a solemn interlude between dance categories, this young dancer grounding himself, the sun pouring over him – ‘Dancers, dance your style’.

The show opens tomorrow night.  For now, the room will sit quiet and dark. I wish I had a key so I could slip inside, sit quietly on the floor perhaps in the evening with a glass of wine and consider the stories in every mark and how they came to be. Coyotes with a shavings of gold leaf highlights walk across a bluff, flowers blooms, glass reflections traps and distort the objects before them, a giant humpback whale swims in an ocean lined with light, a little boy with John Lennon glasses and playing cards tucked in the brim of his hat reminds me of a character in a novel i once read but can’t quite recall, and oh those owl eyes.  The content is diverse as is the medium and presentation. Somewhere, a spark of an idea began months earlier in sixty different studio and the long prelude to this ten days in April began.

A lot goes into hanging every show. It should include a warm appreciation to the creative spirit and the gift we are given in the incredible diversity of beings. The way we see, process and reflect the world that makes our experience unique and similar, a spark, a connection and the hum of electricity that tells us we are alive.  It is all in the eye of the beholder.

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shelter from the storm


Yesterdays lazy Sunday turned up a variety of treasures, included this beautiful fat chrysalis on a broken yarrow stem. While the wind was unrelenting  yesterday, I thought the place we tucked this one in the garden with slightly more shelter than were we found him would be fine. This morning I woke to the sound of rain and began to worry, what if it is too near the ground. Boots and slicker and after a bit of a search in the garden we are relocated to a spot near the well with more fern and yarrow tangles to protect from the elements. This process can take two weeks or more for some species to complete. I will be checking in and hoping for good outcomes.


The snails are waking up as well. This little one is working on healing his shell, they are rather amazing little beings and this is one of their recovery skills. Some time back I shared a photo of a tree with a scar and a spike and the bark grown around it in amazing swirls incorporating the wound, a redefinion of sorts. A friend shared, this is a grief tree. In her culture the idea we move past loss or trauma is absurd. We do not discard the experience but we grow around it, we carry it forward, but forward we go.

and sometimes, we simply hold space.


IMGP4545 We create space for those who follow, and for those in passing. It is an important task. There are moments when we are strong and what we do with that strength is the stuff that defines us.

This weekend I started prepping some sanded paper with gold leaf and a layer of pumice for pastel work. I think I am going to use the small squares for some snail sketches. The perfect little roundness of the curving shell feels compelling.  This may seem like a  separate blog, but there is a flow between experience and idea that is part of the process of creative expression. IMG_3604

The chrysalis, the healing shell, the perfect curve, something of value offered to make welcome something new. A rainy Monday, strong dark coffee,

‘Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm “- bob dylan