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One World We Share

Greetings to all of you around the world! This virus sure has made our world seem a whole lot smaller, while we are experiencing similar things in response to various restrictions that affect our daily lives, some of us more than others. I’m not going to say much more about Covid-19, because it is getting so much attention as it is, even eclipsing all the issues that were important before – issues that are still there under the current crisis.

So, that said, I’m finding it difficult to keep myself focused on what I was originally determined to paint for my upcoming solo exhibition for this November. Titled, “One World: Land, Sea & Air,” it is an exhibition of art with a message on endangered species and spaces around the world. I usually have goal posts such as group exhibitions and the like that help me finish paintings along the way. However, with all the cancellations of shows and other opportunities, I have found myself struggling with what I should be focusing on – maybe there is a more important message…

I wonder how much our world will change as a result of how we respond to this “crisis.” In many places where there have been lock-downs, there have been noticeable changes in pollution levels, but I don’t think that is going to last (too many variables, money and power being huge factors). But as much as I care about endangered animals (all animals, in fact), I also care about humankind. Far from endangered, yet we live with so many ongoing national and world issues that can at any moment threaten our continued existence. These issues are still there under the surface tensions of the worldwide Covid-19 threat.

Maybe my message should not be solely about endangered species and spaces… Maybe it’s more about the One World we share, the One World that is all we have, and the legacy we leave to the future generations of this One World.

So much to think about… but the painting must go on. More to come!

This is a recently finished painting I have showing at my home gallery until the time comes for my November exhibition, if public galleries will be open by then.

The Barn Owl is endangered in Canada. At first glance, this looks like a regular wildlife scene, but a closer look tells more… This is art with a message, with the destruction of habitat and the species represented by the cracking in the bark that is also spreading into the side of the owl. Its talons grip the branch that is in danger of breaking away from the tree. The snow is accumulating. “Don’t Let Me Fade Away” is mixed media on a 18” x 36” gallery wood panel.

A video with close-up zoom can be seen here.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone!

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Lakeside Trail

Autumn. It’s always short, but in 2018, it was incredibly sweet in Muskoka! And I was taking it all in, as usual, whatever I could get of it. The last time I experienced such extreme autumn colour was way back in 1997, when I was on my honeymoon in Algonquin Park. 

This is what happens when you feast with your eyes…

What goes in must come out, and thankfully, I was feasting on beauty! I called it “Lakeside Trail.” It’s an acrylic painting on a 36″ x 24″ canvas, with a whole lot of colour and textured granite rock and lichen.

Here is the full size painting:

"Lakeside Trail" / 36" x 24" / acrylic on canvas

“Lakeside Trail” / 36″ x 24″ / acrylic on canvas

Wanting to do justice to all the beautiful autumn colours, I found myself a little lost in the leaves, so to speak. Alas! Those leaves were all on the ground before long, but I had taken plenty of source photos from which I could create a scene. 

The path alongside this lake takes the hiker past the outcrop of granite and up into denser forest and to a lookout. Meanwhile the sun shines through the trees, creating a highlight on whatever autumn leaves it can reach. Watch your footing with all those rocks and tree roots!

Something I noticed along the way is my muscle memory for too much detail, an unwanted tendency toward perfectionism that I’ve been trying to shed from my early days as an drawing artist. For too long I resisted the paintbrush because of perfectionism, since I thought my pencil tip lent me more precision, but perfectionism robs me of joy. I found myself battling this tendency in the making of this piece, and I had to keep reorienting myself. It has turned out to be quite a fusion of styles!

That said, I am mostly pleased with it. I found a way to incorporate texture without losing all the details, so I am content.

But the colour! Now that is what excites me about this piece! Layers and layers of colour!

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This is where the painting hung before we sold our piano. It is flanked my 4 of my smaller landscapes.
The lighting could have been better (for the true colours of the painting), but this is me in July 2019 after “Lakeside Trail” won an award for honourable mention at the 61st Annual ECOAA Members’ Show.
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“My Backyard Is Full of Life”

I’m excited to announce that my book, “My Backyard Is Full of Life,” has been published! It is available on Amazon in print and eBook formats. I also have a limited number of print copies on hand and for sale at my art studio.

I wrote this book many years ago, but I finally made time to finish the illustrations. They are intended to look like the main character, 11yo Rachel, drew them herself for her nature journal.

This is a book for parents, grandparents, and teachers to read to children ages 7 and up, and it should be preread for children who are highly sensitive to nature’s surprises. This would be great as an introduction to a science unit, or cross-curricular activity, for grades 3 to 5. It is also intended for children who can read independently, who appreciate a few illustrations (about one/chapter), and who don’t always want a long read. In fact, it’s only about 50 pages long, so it’s a story for one sitting. Nature lovers, young and old, will learn that nature isn’t always predictable (sometimes it is less scary when we try to understand), and also that we can – and should – do our part to take care of our world, starting with our own backyard! We can all make a difference!

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Introducing My “Art of Where” Shop

Introducing: Art of Where 

All items are designed by me from my original art, and they are made in Canada. Unique gifts, exceptional quality, great prices!

Wall Art, Clothing, Tote Bags, Accessories, Home Decor

Besides wall art (prints on paper, wood and canvas), Art of Where produces clothing items, pillow cases, and a variety of totes, carryalls, scarves and other accessories. Have a look below at only some of the items available from this production partnership. My complete store can be found by clicking on this Art of Where link. All items are made in Canada.

Interested buyers may also wish to contact me (Michelle) directly.

TO ORDER, email me directly at vine.art2014@gmail.com and I will send you an order form. I also take credit card orders. Shipping amounts are adjusted for multiple items, so it costs very little to ship additional items.

The following links will take you to other sites where art prints, clothing and household items can be purchased with my images:

Etsy Shop: VineArtandCreations

Fine Art America / Pixels.com

If ordering from within Canada, Fine Art America/Pixels.com will ship certain products from within Canada (no customs/duty charges), while any product can be shipped from their other locations (info here).

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Lone Wolf – There’s a Story in His Eyes…

Lone Wolf - There's a Story in His Eyes

I have wanted to do this painting for so long. Wolves are one of my favourite animals, and before I knew better, I used to dream of having an encounter with a pack. I fancied this idea that I would become a wildlife biologist or a photographer in the Yukon, but the closest I came to that was to own a white German Shepherd dog and name him Yukon. 

So, finally, many years after all those drawings I did of wolves, I finally painted one. It’s fitting that it is a lone wolf, and there’s a story to that, but I’m saving that for another time and another post.

The working title for the painting is: “Lone Wolf Searching.” Searching for what, you might say. Well, the story is in his eyes. But by the way he is looking at the viewer, maybe he has found what he has been searching for? Or maybe, one of those viewers will feel the same and want to take him home? Then, he will have found his pack. 🙂 I would have to ensure that I get a quality photograph for some art prints, of course, before I let him go. I have a perfect spot for him at home, but he’s going to a show this weekend first.

The following photos show the the majority of the process from start to finish. I transferred my composition from a 6″x8″ drawing to the 36″x48″ canvas, and then went to work on the areas I wanted to accent with texture. The setting is the edge of a forest and near the twilight hour after a snow storm. That tree in the foreground stands out differently from the rest, because it leans away from the viewer and toward the forest, hence it’s bark still has a covering of snow from the storm which has not blown or fallen off. No tree is really straight, even if it looks so at first. Nature is full of surprises and is never “perfect,” so I try my best to depart from “perfection,” and shoot for excellence instead. I get so much more joy in that approach!

I hope you enjoy the steps in the process, awkward as they may be!

If I don’t get around to posting before the holiday, have yourselves a wonder-filled holiday! Merry Christmas!

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The Evolution of My Work with Acrylic Skins

From pouring paint…

Marbled

Marbled / 18″ x 24″ / acrylic on canvas

To finding uses for all those “leftover” bits…

Giant of the Deep

Giant of the Deep / 8″ x 8″ / acrylic on canvas SOLD

To purposeful “fracturing” for a stained glass window effect (on canvas)…

I can definitely see the progression over time, after learning what I could accomplish with pouring paint. I will do more of these, but sometimes I think that I should show these separately from my other works, because people could be confused about my “style.” I’m not confused; I simply love variety!

Another artist asked me recently, “Just what are acrylic ‘skins’?”

Let’s just say that sometimes they are: 1) accidental paint droppings that are created when poured paint falls over the edge of the canvas or wood panel; 2) the paint that dries on the palette, often bumpy and oddly shaped, while the reverse side is usually smooth; and 3) intentionally created upon a level plastic surface, from which they can be peeled when fully dry. I prefer the latter, and I am picky with what I choose to use. Sometimes it is the reverse side of the skin that is much more interesting. A curious artist will find ways to end up with interesting leftover “skins,” often intentionally choosing the surface they dry on to create a textured effect. I can’t reveal ALL my trade secrets, of course, but thanks for asking!

These 3 photos are of acrylic skins that I intentionally made back in 2015, for the purpose of fashioning them into something colourful. I didn’t know the specifics when I set out to make them, but I have an intuitive knack for seeing what will become of the art in the process. Inevitably, a number of ideas will take form, but when the paint dries, then I must ultimately choose how I will use them. Once I have cut away the sections I need, they are permanently removed from the whole piece, which is beautiful in itself.

What do you see in each of the skins above?

And can you guess how each of the paintings below were created? Was the paint poured directly to the surface, or applied after drying into a skin? What type of skins have been used? Palette skins or intentionally designed skins?

 

In 2019 I will be having a solo art show, so I will be creating future pieces with a mind to fit with my theme, “Discovery, Wonder, and Story-Telling.” Some of these already completed works will be shown there as well. While these pieces were created using “skins,” not all of my pieces do, but I tend to value colour and texture, so those elements will be consistent.

You can see these works and more in person by visiting the Vine Art Gallery of Muskoka, which is open for special dates and also by appointment. Online photos do not show how detailed or textured they are, nor do they give a true sense of the layers of colour within.

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New Artwork: “Ruby”

As promised, I’m sharing a finished piece (finally) that I started back in February with intentions of entering it into the spring members’ show. My other two pieces took too much of my available time, I guess. This one is much smaller (8″ x 8″), but I wanted to do the subject justice, since I consider these creatures to be amongst the most awe-inspiring in their beauty and power, contained within such tiny bodies.

“Ruby” is the title of my latest painting of a ruby-throated hummingbird, which is hovering in front of a hibiscus flower and about to sip its fill of the flower’s nectar.

About a month ago, when the hummingbirds returned to my backyard, I remembered my nearly completed piece. When I finally devoted some time to focus on the final steps involved, it took only a few hours to add the finishing touches of painting and the sealing coat, divided over a couple of days to allow for needed drying time.

As you can see, because of the glossy surface, it is very difficult to get the desired quality of photograph to show this piece online. I have uploaded one taken from an angle to show the details with less glare. In person, the viewing is much easier. 🙂

I hope you like this handsome fella,

inspired by the sweet visitors to my backyard!

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Like a Phoenix Rising from the Ashes

My “Phoenix Rising to New Life” painting is a very personal piece, as I’ve always felt like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Since the phoenix is mythological, I took the liberty of depicting a more peaceful bird to represent new life. Its magical lift and effortless flight promote an appreciation for its confidence and grace, even while it is vulnerable during this stage of renewal.

[February 2019 update: I recently spared the time to go back and retouch this painting, and brought it to a professional photographer to get a better photo. As you can see by comparing them side by side, I have not taken away anything essential from the original conception, but I have merely “fixed” areas which I was unable to back in November 2014 – to complete to my satisfaction – due to not having the needed materials at the time. On the left is the 2014 version, on the right is 2019.]

If you have ever felt like a phoenix rising from the ashes, then you will see a lot of symbolism. The level of the lake is flat, much like the flatline of a heart monitor. The rising elevations of the mountains hint at the power and strength of the new life, versus the flatline.

There is fog on the water, signifying the morning of a new day. The fog also acts as a cover for the phoenix, as it seeks a safe direction to start its journey.

Of the 4 tail feathers, two are peacock-like, one of which resembles a human eye. This eye was not meant to be the all-seeing eye of God (or perhaps I would have placed it more within the triangular area of the mountain). Instead, it is a human eye, which serves to remind us of where we have been and what we have learned, so that we can take part willingly in the transformational process of renewal.

The phoenix was a Christian symbol for resurrection in the time of the early church. The leaves on the tree occur in sets of three, pointing to the triune God. Therefore, it is fitting that the tree is in the foreground and that it stands out somewhat 3D from the rest of the painting. It also shelters the phoenix somewhat, and serves as a marker of its complete departure from its past.

Meanwhile, its old body lies in death, which is represented by the rocks in the lower right corner of the painting. It is a human body, with female form, lying in the position which it fell in death. But it wasn’t all for nothing. There are already spring flowers bursting from the fertile ash in the crevices of the rock, indicating that we leave a legacy that helps others to learn from the past and look forward to a better future.

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First Hummingbird Sighting 2018

Hooray! I’ve been following the sightings that people have been recording on this website, so I knew they were getting closer to Muskoka in their migration. In eager expectation, I put out the hummingbird feeder a few days ago. When I saw them today, I had to submit my own sighting on the website.

It was raining for most of today, so these photographs are from indoors and looking through the bay window. The wind didn’t help me get many pics that were in focus, but I still got proof of the return of these lovelies. There was at least one pair, but the pics only show the male.

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In the above photo, you can see the ruby colour at its throat. But even though these pics are all of the same bird, its throat looks black in some, because of the light.

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He even looks a little chubby when he is at rest. So sweet!

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Spring Has Finally Arrived!

Winter 2017-2018 was LONG, but good riddance! We received piles of snow well into April this year, and it’s only been completely gone from our yard now for about a week.

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Lake Muskoka was still covered in ice on April 15th.

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On April 24th, the snow had to be shovelled off our back deck so it could melt in the sun. My back garden was completely bare. Thanks to the deer for chewing the few tulips out back down to nothing. Since the snow and ice still covered the front gardens, those tulips hadn’t yet emerged, so they were safe.

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On April 29th, the sun is finally high enough in the sky to melt the snow on the front yard, but there is still a small patch.

 

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And there were only a few crocuses in the front garden then.

 

 

 

 

 

But now, I am proclaiming a long overdue welcome to spring!

In fact, on May 1st it seemed to go from winter temperatures the day before right into summer (while snow was still on the ground ?!@&!?). Of the snowdrop bulbs I planted, not a single one came up, in the front or in the back. They should have done so before the crocuses, which makes me think something was wrong with them. I won’t buy bulbs packaged by that company again.

Every spring, I can’t resist touring my gardens to see which of my “green babies” has just burst out from the ground, day after day. In the sunshine, I can almost watch them growing. It helps to cheer my soul after the winter blahs.

Now, everything is coming up (except for one out of 3 lupines I planted). We may have had a slow start, but it’s all catching up!

I’m so excited to see my gardens fill out this year, after all the work I’ve put into it. Finally, I can rest in knowing that I shouldn’t have to do much work with it this year, except some maintenance, but that is a peaceful activity.

Happy Spring!!

 

 

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Mako the Golden

We lost a true friend this April. I write this to honour the furry fella, Mako the Golden.

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Looking back as life keeps moving forward.

Mako was always adventuresome. This dog lived the life of a true companion to his chosen master, always willing to hop in the truck (front or back) and hang out at the workplace through the day, and never missing his ride home.

He knew his pack. As with any dog, one master rose above the rest, because the dog choses on its own. Mako started with one owner, then circumstances moved him around within the same family, but eventually, he decided on the one. He went with him wherever and whenever he could.

But Mako knew and loved all the rest who came and went from the home he claimed as his own. He greeted everyone like he hadn’t seen them in ages, even if it was only a few hours since he last smelled them. Many people came and went from his lakeside home, and he hung out with everyone on the dock and in the boat(s). Ducks and fish were a few of his interests, and he couldn’t keep his nose away from a potential catch, or meal.

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Eyeing up a potential meal, with my daughter and my sister-in-law.

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Showing some interest in my son’s fishing hobby.

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My daughter had a special attachment to Mako, and the feeling was mutual. She was much more than his trusted tummy-scratcher. When his master had to be away, Mako stayed at our house and he slept in our daughter’s bedroom on his own bed. Yes, he also brought his own stuffed animal.

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At our house, Mako always looked with longing out the front door to the street where he would see other dogs, but we couldn’t let him outside without attaching a leash and walking around with him, because he wasn’t used to the city.

At his home(s) he was completely free. He romped through the hills and forest, down to the dock and lake, in search of the sources of all the scents in his world. One time, he followed his nose to discover a girl-dog at a residence not too far from his property, and he outstayed the welcome of her owners on several occasions. And during the work week, Mako had his run of the workplace property too. He was used to running, sniffing, and rolling, but he was sure to be back when the workday was done for his ride home in his master’s truck.

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The dock and boathouse on a frozen Lake Muskoka. April 15th, 2018.

This year, old man winter would not relent, and the lake was still frozen on the surface well into April. On the evening of the 10th, Mako made his usual request to go outside for his constitutional, but he didn’t return. It was suspected that he was visiting his girl-dog, and that he would make his way back as always. The next morning, he still hadn’t shown up. Later into the morning hours, he was found a short distance from the dock. He had, for reasons unknown, fallen through the ice, and although he tried desperately, he couldn’t get out of the freezing water for all the broken, shifting ice. In the dead of night, no one heard a sound. The extended winter is to blame, and it isn’t welcome anymore! But Mako was, and always will be, sorely missed.

I’ve not had the pleasure to know that many special dogs, but he made me want another dog of my own! It has been a while for me. Maybe I will get my wish someday, but for now, we’re all missing this guy like no other!  

 

 

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