Canadian Inspiration

LAWREN HARRIS TORONTO

In June I saw the Harris Exhibit  at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Lawren Harris is my favourite painter from The Group of Seven. His crisp lines, cool blues, and his ability to capture the stark solitude of our Canadian (winter) Landscapes has captivated me since I learned about this art in grade seven.

It was not until 2004 when I saw his “North Shore, Lake Superior” painting at the National Gallery in Ottawa, that I wanted to someday visit the great lake myself. I will never forget walking into a random room at the gallery, with the painting to my back, and slowly turning around, I was stunned by it’s presence. It was the first piece of art I’ve viewed that filled me with emotion. Awe. The thick, smooth brush stokes, with that perfect warm yellow shining down upon the stark landscape. I went back every week to view it. I joke that it was my worship. Sacred time to study a painting. When I saw it in Toronto at his AGO exhibit, my heart was very happy. Like seeing an old friend.

It was a wonderful exhibit. I might have to go once more before it ends in September. A day with out my lovely boy, so I can leisurely view the paintings and re-visit the permanent Canadian Gallery too.  To refresh my passion of painting and nature, to inspire my paintings in the works, and to remember Jasper. I absolutely love that the exhibit ended with Harris’ quote “Every work of art which really moves us is in some degree a revelation- it changes us.” His work did that for me 16 years ago. Changed my perspective of the power of art.

SUMMER ART EXPOSURE

This has been such an incredible summer for getting my work into the world. I have one of my final Jasper pieces in our local hospital. I had a successful art show “Earth & Sky.” I finished a custom painting that I hand delivered to The French River. Next on the list, is to have some work showing during the month of September in Port Hope at Ganaraska Framing.

CANADIAN INSPIRATION

Since visiting Jasper last summer, I decided I need to travel more. This doesn’t mean extravagant or expensive travels- but visiting places I have never been (and/or places I have) that inspire me to paint. This summer that meant driving north, finally, to Lake Superior. But the last year also included trips to Frontenac, the Petroglyphs, Monk’s Cove and Presqu’ile Park.

Each trip has  had some special and magical moments that I hope to pull forward in my art. Some I have photos and some only in memory and feelings.

mother and son

The next show is in the works for December; as you can see my son is helping motivate me! I think I have a third generation artist on my hands.

 

 

 

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Lake Superior

superior land

Since viewing Lawren Harris’ painting “Lake Superior, North Shore” at the National Gallery in 2004, I have wanted to travel there. Other than that painting I knew nothing of this land or lake. I now know Lake Superior is the largest, deepest and coldest body of fresh water in the world.

When I compare Lake Superior Provincial Park to Jasper National Park, I would describe them both as majestic. The Rocky Mountains were powerful, they altered my life and art. Lake Superior is mysterious and magical. It’s gently pushing my work forward. My painting has transitioned from mountains, to sky, and next it will be water and trees.

THE DRIVE NORTH

Remember the custom puppy portrait? It was time to deliver it. French River was the first stop on my northern adventure. It would have been easy to stay longer with that inspirational view and good company- catching up with an old high school friend, eating good food from the garden, and meeting the famous “Cajun” himself!

As I continued on towards Sudbury, I was once again disappointed to travel alone as I never have the opportunity to snap photos. There are so many amazing rock cuts along the highway I would love to paint; Those lines and swirls just beg me to paint them. Another time perhaps.

From Sudbury I was lucky to switch from solo-driver to passenger. We took our sweet time driving north with many pit stops along the way. The Serpent River Trading Post was incredible. We even met one of the artists there setting up for a show. Across the way I also discovered work by Jasyn Lucas, a First Nation’s Artist from Thompson, Manitoba. Magical work.

LAKE SUPERIOR

Chippewa Falls was the first breath taking stop on hwy 17. After driving for 4 hours through mostly forest and rock, the waterfall was a refreshing change of scenery. The painting below is a Group of Seven image, apparently this was one of their favorite places to stop and paint.

group of seven

We made it to our camp site at Agawa Bay.  Just in time for a stunning sunset, we were able to set up before dark, and enjoy a fire and stars, and fall asleep to the peaceful lull of Lake Superior waves.

I must add, as soon as we arrived, and I saw how the light touched the calm water, I could see exactly how Harris captured this same light and water so many years ago. He had a gift for bringing forth the calm solitude of this lake (which I now know is also famous for it’s torrential storms).

our site panorama

When we awoke the next day it was grey. Rain started, and we decided to just keep driving north. We finally hit sun in Wawa. What a strange little town! Plopped there in the middle of nowhere. An isolated little community, charming in itself. Surrounded by lakes and rocks and trees. If you’re ever there check out “Young’s General Store” it’s full of great little gifts and souvenirs. They sell home-made dill pickles stewing right in the old oak bucket! Quite unique.

wawa

On our way back to camp we made a few stops while the sun was still with us. High Falls was breath-taking. By the time we were here, I knew my next series of paintings would be mostly water inspired (before the trip I had bought tons of new green paints for forest landscapes).

There was also a little sign at the falls, talking about the musician Glenn Gould. Wawa was one of his favourite escapes, a place he could travel to where no one knew him or recognized him or even cared who he was. Like many other artists, he found the north to be a place of solitude and inspiration.

high falls

As we continued south down 17 we were slowly returning to grey skies. At Old Woman Bay the rain held back. We stayed and enjoyed the vast view. A wedding was taking place on the beach. We had some lunch and walked around. What amazed me most here was the crystal clear water. So calm and clean.

old woman bay

Our final stop before camp was Katherine Cove. This reminded me of many famous Group of Seven paintings, although I’m unsure this was actually a place they painted. The rocks, trees, islands in the water, the reflections and variety of colour and landscape is an artists dream. If not for the rain, we would have stayed longer.

fine lines under water

HEADING HOME

By the time we got back to camp it was raining again. We had a window of time to decide if we should stay or go. We wasted a bit more time, avoiding the inevitable pack up, by checking out the visitors center. Here I also discovered a few new artists: Jessie Buchanan and Paula Trus. Other then The Group of Seven I haven’t seen a lot of art inspired by Superior’s landscapes so it was refreshing to find a few new pieces.

In the end, with little time to decide, we packed up our sopping wet camp and hit the road back to Sudbury. It was a long haul, but I was grateful for the short time in this sacred place none-the-less. Fresh air, nature fix, visual inspiration, and motivation to paint.

This “Superior” Lake did not disappoint. It’s name is truly fitting. So blessed to live in this country. Now onto painting!

 

Vision Quest

vision quest

The sacred landscape is complete. This is the final piece of the Jasper Series, the largest as well, and perhaps the most special. The first piece I did was a sketch of “Greeted by the Chief” and the final piece is this painting “Vision Quest.”

I knew I would paint a large landscape once I mastered some some smaller paintings. The first painting from the original sketch was a small detail of “The Chief.” Why are these three so special to me?

Well it all started before we drove into Jasper. I had been playing with an oracle deck “Earth Magic” at my friends house in Edmonton. Before anyone else woke up, the day we were doing our road trip, I decided to pull three cards. I received “Full Moon/completion” (which it was the full moon), “Desert/Vision Quest” (which I felt I was on during my week in Alberta), and “Lightening/power” (and we drove home from Jasper through a wicked storm- both sheet lightening and fork lightening danced over our heads). All three cards resonated.

earth cards

So what is a vision quest? As defined in the oracle card booklet: It is a time of travelling into wilderness alone, usually with only water and some sacred items. You spend the time praying or meditating. It is a powerful and life-altering experience with vivid and profound realizations.

the cheif

My experience was not a genuine vision quest (I wasn’t alone, I had more than water and sacred items, and although I wasn’t praying or meditating I was shaking to my bones in awe). However, it was a powerful, spiritual experience that 100% altered the direction and meaning of my life and work. The clearest vision was the one of this mountain, nicknamed Chief. As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be a painting (upon returning to Edmonton I borrowed my friends sketch book to draw out the first vision).

As the Jasper Series come to a close, and I reflect back on the trip and how it propelled me forward in my art, I feel most excited that the new home for this piece is going to be in a Women’s Shelter. When art has been such a healing journey for me, it is very special for it to be in safe space where others can heal or are healing. It gives the piece even more meaning, more sacredness, and I hope it can be a beacon of hope or inspiration for others on their journey’s.

Each of us have turning points in our lives (whether it’s a vision quest or not) a time of clear vision and sometimes fast or forced change. It can leave one reeling out of control. This image is one of meditation and surrender. When you look deep within, and find that calm that exists within the chaos. It does exist. But sometimes we need to stop to see it.

MEANING AND SYMBOLISM

Vision Quest summarizes my spiritual experience of driving through the Rocky Mountains. As soon as I saw the mountains, I was overcome in emotion. I spent the drive into Jasper sobbing uncontrollably, while trying to snap pictures of every mountain. Two things were happening simultaneously: old energy was leaving me with brute force, while new energy was flushing me with clarity. It was like I was dying (grieving) while at the same time being reborn (celebrating). Overwhelm at it’s greatest!

When I look at this painting I feel joyful, hopeful. I wanted it to be a summary of opposites uniting, dancing, and reflecting one another: Light and Dark, Stillness and Movement, Calm and Chaos, Feminine and Masculine, Life and Death. I wanted the earth to be reflected in the sky, and vice versa. Spirit and energy reflected in the physical. Everything in existence and time, blending into one universal moment. Unending (notice the blue of sky and water create an infinity symbol?).

This final work of the Jasper Series is not only special, it is Sacred. I release it with Love and Light and immense gratitude.