Monday, September 15, 2014

Ernesto Neto

The artwork of Ernesto Neto is tactile and curious.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Upcoming exhibits

A touring exhibition titled Hats from a Life Lived includes one of my fibre pieces titled Creative Hands.  This exhibit features many wonderful women artists from Winnipeg and is curated by artist Colette Balcaen. The show is scheduled to be in Neepawa and Portage La Prairie for August and September 2014

Hats from a Life Lived

In Neepawa at the Viscount Art Gallery. An opening event is scheduled for August 13, 2014 from 1-4 pm. The exhibit will remain in Neepawa until the end of of August. 
You can see more about the show and the centre here:

The entire exhibit then moves to Portage La Prairie to the Portage and District Arts Centre.  It will remain on display from September 2 - 27, 2014. 
 For more information about the arts centre see:

This project was fun as the curator Winnipeg artist Colette Balcaen invited artists to participate in a project of altering vintage hats to represent subjects and people who were of influence in our lives.  My hat was influenced by three women in my life who inspire me to make things.  My mother, my grandmother and my mother-in-law.  Each image illustrates their favourite creative pastime.

I chose needle lace as the method of creating the images and then went about the process of learning how to make needle lace as I had never tried it before.  Needle lace is a form of lace making that allows you to create a fairly detailed image using just thread and a needle.

I started by drawing an image on a piece of paper and then couching a thicker piece of crochet thread onto the paper to act as an outline.  Once this is done then smaller thread is used to basically create a decorative grid of thread lines and stitches to fill in the image. I even took some liberties in creating my own stitches from the more traditional. Then the entire thread image is lifted off of the paper by cutting the couching threads and gently clipping them away from the finished project.  Each image was then tacked onto the hat.  I am very pleased with the overall look.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Secrets of the Snow Queen: An Eco Tale

I have illustrated my first publication!  Titled The Secrets of the Snow Queen, An Eco Tale written by Ruth Asher. This Eco Tale invites the reader into a fairy tale setting, including an evil queen, a captured child, a quest, talking animals, even a goofy gargoyle. At its heart, however, is a contemporary issue about living harmoniously with plants that supply us with food, animals at risk, and one another.  Big kids and little kids might enjoy receiving a copy of The Secrets of the Snow Queen.

The book is available for purchase at McNally Robinson and online at as an ebook.

Oil Painting Methods

Oil painting methods have not really changed much in over 100 years. A quote  from “The Painters Methods and Materials” 1926. 
“In the first place it (oil) changes in refractive index with age.  This begins from the moment the oil paint, painted out in a thin layer has begun to dry.  The dry paint is already not so opaque, not so brilliant, as the paint squeezed out of the tube.  This change goes on slowly but remorselessly through the years, though, of course, at a diminishing rate.  We know that the slow chemical changes which take place in the linseed oil film are not complete after four hundred years,  that the film is still improving in toughness and insolubility. ……..The pigments then are growing deeper in tone and more translucent, and hence it is that we have pentimenti, the under-paintings ultimately showing through.”
This is the beauty of oil paint, that as it ages the colours become more transparent and richer in tone.  The aging process allows light to shine through the layers of colour into the painting in effect blending the layers of colour together.  Even heavy impasto will change over time deepening in tone and developing an oil laden gleam that catches the light and emphasizes the presence of texture in the painting.  This will remain throughout the life of the painting and in fact improve as the painting ages. 

One of my favourite quotes by Ted Godwin in The Studio Handbook for Working Artists: A Survival Manual.

"An acrylic painting will never look as good as the day you finished painting it, however an oil painting will never look as bad as the day you finished painting it.”

Industry, oil on canvas, 2010: Private Collection

Painterly Challenge

Why not paint with acrylics instead of oils?  Acrylics have several advantages.  They are water soluble and there are lots of mediums available that can help make acrylic paint imitate oils.  Moreover there are mediums that can allow an artist to paint with thick heavy impasto with very low risk of cracking as it dries and enables an artist to paint quickly as acrylics dry very fast.
Oil paint on the other hand can be tricky.  You are required to paint in layers allowing each to dry as you proceed.  The use of underpainting white, thinner, and wingel expedites this process by speeding drying time.  However you are still required to allow for drying time before putting one colour over another or you risk making a muddy mess of your colours.  Just to make it even more challenging as a painting dries oil will rise to the surface making it difficult for the next layer of paints to bind to the surface.  If you use too much oil mixed in with pigment you can lower the tone of the colour or impede the paints ability to bind while not enough oil will do the same.  The ready availability of colours in tubes along with various mediums take much of the guess work out of oil painting but knowing when to stop painting is important to a successful painting

Interrogate Space, Oil on canvas, 2009: Private Collection

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Machine Knitting

I am enjoying using an old Bond Machine knitter that was a gift from my mom.
Its a bit finicky to use but the results are quite nice. This machine is called the Incredible Sweater Machine identified by the fact that the needle bed is in two parts.  Its first incarnation was the Bond Original which came out in 1981.  The inventor Roger Curry named the machine after Bond Street in London apparently because he felt that street in particular illustrated the height of British fashion at the time. Curry wanted to make it possible for all women to make their own fashionable garments quickly and easily.

For some reason my machine does not have the original carriage with it.  I am using the intarsia key plate to knit with until such a time that I find a proper carriage.

Using the keyplate makes setting up the hooks a bit tedious as they are set up by hand using cards to position them as shown in the first picture.  The yellow card for working position and green card places the stitches into the far front of the needle bed.

There are tons of youtube videos and instructional websites out there as machine knitting is still popular. This is a good website for information about the Bond machine.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Jar

The things people throw away become part of a microcosm growing and/or decaying, being consumed and consuming. Each piece of detritus is the seed of change an evolutionary chink in our planet. The full potential of these plantings has yet to be realized. There is a cosmology of destruction and growth contained within an environment encapsulated. The glass jar will never decompose but the metal lid slowly oxidizes rusting away as chunks fall into and around. Once the air penetrates the semi-opaque contents are warmed by the sun slowly turning the jelly yellow-brown, releasing the unctuous aroma of petroleum within. In 50 years the soft pvc lining on the underside of the lid begins to decay perhaps cracking becoming brittle, taking over 450 years to breakdown. The glass jar may at some point be crushed melding container and contents with the mulch of rotted wood, leaves and dirt. Various bugs, seeds, plantlife unfortunate enough to fall into the jar become encased in the petroleum become part of the soup of jelly crushed glass, plastic and mulch.

Painterly Challenge

Every once in a while I do a painting that just does not want to be painted. 
At the outset of this painting I carefully planned my landscape, drawing it out in charcoal and planning where the colours would go.  I then executed an underpainting blocking some of the basic forms and the darker areas using raw umber and some lighter shades of the colours I wanted to fiinish the painting with.  The palette for this painting lime green,  red orange, chcolate brown and ceruleian blue.  I let the underpainting dry.   Then I started brushing thin coats of colour mixed with linseed oil.  Intent upon building the layers as I paint; fat over lean, light to dark to get the full effect of layering oils and to bring out the light through the colours.  A half an hour of concentrating intently as I paint and the drool starts to form at the corner of my mouth.  Next thing I am leaning back in my chair, brush in hand, head back, mouth open with snores softly issuing.
I awake abruptly feeling refreshed.  I chuckle as I realize that once again I am trying to subvert my nature as a painter.  I love to paint but usually with heavy impasto.  I love the texture of paint mixed to the consistancy of butter and then slathered onto the canvas.  The very fact that I fell asleep while doing my own painting, well its kind of sad, but simply demonstrates that I was bored out of my skull.

A painters style is something developed over time, most often over years of work. I believe that it is marked by what the artist finds most exciting about painting mixed at times with a little dose of luck. Whether an artist paints realistic, impressionistic, abstract, expressionist etc., the primary requirement to developing your skill is to paint and to keep on painting but paint what interests you.