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!
From pouring paint…
To finding uses for all those “leftover” bits…
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.
You know you’ve met a nature lover when…
…You visit their house and as you approach their front door you notice some rather tired-looking, chewed-up milkWEED plants dominating the garden, where a much more beautiful specimen-plant should be. Yes, that’s my house. Well, until this week, that is, when the last generation of this year’s caterpillars finally had their fill. The ratty looking plants are now in the compost bin, and our Rose of Sharon is in full bloom, getting all the sunlight it desires.
I tried to plant the milkweed seeds I harvested from last fall, but nothing came up in the spring. My plan was to see what came up, if it would increase somewhat year after year, and then I could eventually plant more beautiful specimens at my front door. Instead, I came up with a plan ‘B’ to attempt to transplant some new milkweed sprouts, but you have to dig way down to get the full root of the plant. After several tries, I think I was successful with transplanting 4 plants, although all but one died soon after. From what I’ve read, they will seem to die, but if the root becomes established, it will spread and come back the following spring. Fingers crossed… After all, the ones by my front door keep coming back, no matter how many I pull out for lack of space!
The following pics span from the first of June to mid-July. The flowers were in bloom and pungent at the end of June, when they are actually quite lovely, while some plants that were already well-favoured with eggs and caterpillars were looking rather worn out by mid-July. As soon as they looked this tired, I was itching to pull them. If I discovered an egg on one of the leaves, I waited. Sometimes I had to move a caterpillar to a different plant, so I could pull out the spent one.
Last year, I brought 25 caterpillars inside over the summer, later releasing all of them when they emerged from their pupae as adults. This year, I did not bring any inside. The Monarchs arrived earlier this year and I thought I would see how it went. But the predators didn’t really reveal themselves until August. I started seeing evidence of this… dead caterpillars with ants, spiders and beetles around them. And then the ground wasps returned. We attempted to exterminate the wasps without harming anything else, but that is an ongoing battle to revisit next year.
Even now, we are seeing adult Monarchs visiting my gardens, and the last generation of caterpillars have now pupated. So, it won’t be long before these ones are making the long trek to Mexico.
This is a continuation from Part One… re: SPD = Sensory Processing Disorder, or Dysfunction.
Thank you to those who have listened to and encouraged me over the years/decades, both prior to learning about SPD and even now. And to those who go to great lengths to reduce my exposure to triggers in their presence, in my home or in theirs, I am deeply grateful.
There are no meds that help with SPD. Believe it or not, there are “experts” who believe that one must simply continue to expose oneself to become accustomed to the triggers, as if they will eventually go away. This works for some, but not all. I can tell you the approach does not currently work for me, but has only made me feel worse. Granted, I’ve always had to find alternative ways of getting by, such as finding a seat with the window glare behind me, choosing different shampoos/deodorant/etc., and cutting out chemicals when cleaning my house. The list goes on and on. However, as the number of people increases within close proximity to me, whether just on the edge of my personal bubble, or upwind by breeze or draft, this drives up the threat to my health exponentially. That’s the state of things currently, anyway. I am optimistic that the effects will decrease in magnitude, after I can recover from some very significant stress overload.
About all I can do is try and control my environment, but there are so many variables besides SPD that are out of my control. One huge variable that affects me is the weather (i.e., barometric pressure). Another is fluctuations in hormones.
Perhaps the worst variable that contributed to crippling me in the past year was accumulated adrenal fatigue, mainly from the stress of my last workplace. That in itself is difficult to rebound from, but it has magnified the symptoms of SPD, and I am experiencing a long list of symptoms besides, indicating leaky gut, chronic sinus infections, fibromyalgia, and more.
Most of the time I’m staying at home, either inside my house or in my yard. No, I don’t sleep in, or take naps. In fact, I have a hard enough time sleeping well during the night, and I go to bed at roughly the same time every night. I don’t take meds to sleep because they only cause more problems and don’t help me sleep at all. So, the amount of sleep I am able to get is a huge factor as well, but it’s awfully difficult to sleep when I am experiencing pain and other reactions.
There are five basic sensory systems that everyone learns in elementary school: 1. sight (visual); 2. hearing (auditory); 3. smell (olfactory); 4. taste (gustatory); and 5. touch (tactile). Additionally, there are 3 other senses that hardly anyone knows about: 6. vestibular (re: motion, movement, balance); 7. proprioceptive (re: sensations from muscles and joints of the body); and 8. interoception. For helpful info, this resource explains the 8 senses (without all the ads).
Imagine how the human body takes in information from the senses. People with SPD can have hyper- (over) or hypo- (under) sensitive senses, or a mix of these along with some senses that actually do function as they should. However, my current experience is that most of mine are hyper-sensitive, especially smell, light, sound, and the vestibular sense. Some of mine started out hypo-sensitive and changed to hyper-sensitive. I have learned how to adapt in many ways over the years, but there are times when my tolerance gets tapped out. And there are some things I simply cannot tolerate at all, ever (like chemical fragrances, but even some of the natural scents, like blooming hyacinth flowers – I grow them outside but they stay outside).
Some of the effects for me are: crippling migraines, with accompanying nausea, dizziness, short-term memory retrieval issues, and cognitive confusion. I lose my ability to engage mentally in a project/activity, to socialize, to recall everyday words to express myself, and to do simple things like read or listen to music (I will spare you the exhaustive list). All I can do is muster up enough strength of purpose to think of a place to lie down – a dark, quiet room away from everything, with minimal exposure to anything sensory, if that were possible – and then I might need to crawl there. If I’m away from home but lucky enough to have some warning and enough time, then I will drive immediately home, or at least go to my vehicle. Otherwise, I’m stuck. It takes several hours, at least, for me to feel better. Often, the effects last for many days. Complications of barometric pressure and hormonal fluctuations will exacerbate the effects and one episode can continue for a week, only to return without much relief in between.
When I have those days or hours in between during which I feel “better”, I often feel elated and just want to enjoy myself to the fullest, but it doesn’t happen that often. I really do like to be around people, and I try to make the best of it, but there are only a few places besides my own house where I can feel safe. I try to make memories with my family. I want to make sure there are good times with them to remember. Being down and out for the count can be so isolating and depressing, and I certainly don’t want to stay in that pit.
I love the outdoors, being near or on water, or walking a decent trail, and I bring my camera with me to record my experiences or sightings. Some of the sightings end up in my paintings. 🙂
Another one of my favourite things to do is to write. Writing and painting are incredibly therapeutic activities for me. I have to be creative. This is why I recently went to my first meeting with the Muskoka Authors Association (MAA). I inquired just over a month ago, after knowing about it for quite some time, but I felt like it was impossible for me to get involved in anything of interest, because I would just have to pay for it with my health. Someone told me I should at least inquire about whether they have a scent-free policy, since that is usually the worst trigger for me when going to a social event. Well, I did inquire, and the answer was not yet, but they were willing to consider making a policy. Unfortunately, I ended up with a migraine that day, which prevented me from going. This month I was determined, once again, and I was feeling okay right up to a couple of hours before the event. I knew a lot of rain was in the upcoming overnight forecast, and I could feel the pressure building in my head. I took Tylenol and persevered.
I want to sincerely thank the executive of MAA for their willingness to make me feel welcome for that meeting and future ones. I don’t think I had any additional reaction from scents that night, which was the issue they addressed. In fact, they announced a new scent-free policy at the beginning of the meeting and said it would be sent out in an email to the membership. I am not the only one who brought this up, because a guest had done so at the last month’s meeting, so my timing was right for a change. But still, as I heard the announcement (well-spoken, I might add), I just wanted to hide. If only people knew that I was sitting there thinking, “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry that I seem so demanding and anti-social. Please, don’t anybody be mad or resentful about me.” I’m not sure how long it will take to join in with the group without having those thoughts, but maybe after I have a sense of belonging there. No one knows me yet, but many were friendly.
Not to put a damper on things again, 😦 but of course, as I said, I arrived with a migraine already in process, but I did react to the lighting (visual sense), and at the end of the meeting, because I didn’t leave soon enough, the sound of the chairs and tables being moved were grating on my senses too (well, I was trying to be social and talk to another member, and others were just trying to clean up!). So, it wasn’t the scents this time. Instead, it was the lights and sounds. It’s nobody’s fault. I’m merely stating facts, just so people can attempt to understand, if they are willing. That was Thursday, and I was sick with severe migraine and nausea after the meeting and right through until Saturday afternoon, and for all I know it might have had nothing to do with being at the meeting. All I know is that often the factors combine to overstimulate me, and it takes quite a while to recover. Thankfully, I had improved enough to sit with our company who had arrived on Saturday and had travelled 4 hours to visit with us.
The most difficult thing about SPD, over and above the crippling effects of the disorder/dysfunction, is how much I have to ask others to go without, just so that I can be involved in something with them. When they are willing to go to that extent for me, I am touched by their kindness and I’m incredibly grateful.
If you have seen or know my painting, “Phoenix Rising to New Life”, now you will know more of the meaning that painting has for me.
It’s the feeling I get when I see this kind of thing in nature (if you see it, and you can relate, comment below):
Thanks for reading, even if you don’t comment here, but I do hope this helps somebody somewhere… someday.
Love to you all!
What can I possibly know or say about this subject? I don’t look like I have a disability.
I certainly shouldn’t talk about it on Facebook. Isn’t that where people post all things positive? Give the impression that all is well in their world with smiling faces and carefully selected words?
In fact, I have hardly written anything for the last 6 weeks on this blog, because I have been unable most of the time. ***This is not a rant. I am simply trying to share something very personal with a goal to increase awareness and understanding.***
It’s difficult to share this even with friends, even family – to those who know my small accomplishments, and even the things I talk about eventually accomplishing, despite the amount of dedication and hard work they take, or have taken. What they don’t know is how much I have had to keep lowering my expectations for myself and my future. But I still have big ideas. 🙂
For many reasons, some of which will be expressed below, I have shifted away from pursuits in the academic and intellectual world and have re-entered the arts. Yes, I have returned to my first love, visual art, and I tend to alternate between painting and another of my loves, writing. This has happened gradually, due to an increasing number of challenges that, when combined, became insurmountable.
Gradually, I say, because I didn’t recognize the magnitude of the symptoms of sensory processing disorder (SPD), nor did I have a name for it until more recently. In these days, with so many chemicals we are exposed to daily, I just chalked it up to that, and tried to avoid exposure. That worked well, or so I thought, as long as I was a stay-at-home mom, or when I was a student and spent most of my hours in my own safe, home environment. I could come and go, to school or to play dates, or whatever, being that those were not environments I was exposed to each day, because I had breaks in between. Sure, I was conscious of the debilitating symptoms on and off, but the periods of rest ensured that I could recover, while I was still blissfully ignorant about my limitations or that I was merely “coping”. The fact is: I was always living with disability, which was not only invisible to others, but also to myself.
Friends and family have often spoken to me about being gifted, or blessed, or being a renaissance woman (aka multi-potentialite), and some have rejected me for such things. (If they only knew the curses that have come with the blessings!) Indeed, as I write it, there is no way I can avoid judgment for sounding like a braggart, but I don’t care what people think anymore. I have never profited from any of my talents. Schools will continue take my money for tuition, and I will continue to graduate summa cum laude, but I have learned after 3 degrees that it doesn’t matter. Besides, when a gallery requests my artist’s CV, they don’t care about any degrees or work outside of visual art. I have nothing there, because I’m self-taught, with the exception of the studio course in the first year of my BA.
The Masters degree I earned at seminary only amounted to more requests to volunteer in the church with teaching women or children, at least where I am living now. I have no patience or desire to deal directly with the ongoing issues revolving around women in ministry. It has been emotional heartbreak for me, to say the least, but I’ll stop there on that issue. Ultimately, however, it is the sensory issues which have destroyed my ability to volunteer, along with allergies to the mold in some church buildings, which I cannot even enter without paying for it, healthwise. My disability is such that I don’t get any communication from the church, which is to prove its invisibility and the lack of understanding in the community. People have no idea what I have been through. I’ve never been the recipient of hospitality (meals, visits, etc.), like those who have had other illnesses, not to say I want that at all. But I suppose that the few people I’ve told don’t really understand anything at all about what I deal with 24/7/365. And like Jesus said, “Forgive them… for they do not know…” So, that is what I do. But it’s lonely at times. I’ve lived here for 3 years now, and haven’t really found a church where I can be safe from sensory onslaught, or to use my “gifts”.
Perhaps my degree in education was a waste, because I didn’t know beforehand that it would only amount to a long wait for a permanent job while endlessly supply teaching (I discovered that I wasn’t willing or able to do that). But, even if I knew that teachers’ college was a demanding program, with no real down time away from the classroom, I had convinced myself that I was going to do it anyway. It wasn’t long before I felt exhausted with Mono and Bronchitis, to which I was likely susceptible because of the chronic dis-ease caused from my ongoing sensory issues (greatly increased from classroom triggers of lighting, sounds, smells, etc., etc.). Somehow I still made it through the program, determined to “succeed”, and graduated summa cum laude, but then I “failed” to follow through because of overwhelming fatigue. I ended up doing very little supply teaching, and then I moved farther north, where there are less teaching jobs. I would have made a great teacher, of children or adults, if I didn’t have SPD. I knew I could teach, because I found myself teaching often, but not every single day, and not in challenging environments. Alas, I finally realized it was something out of my control.
Such has been the cycle of my life; my successes eclipsed by my failures. And my failures have ensured that no one will promote me. For a woman who has prided herself in being capable and dependable, I now feel perceived as unreliable and unworthy. One might say that it has all been meaningless.
But that is only a snippet of my life. I don’t believe that is how God sees me. And I don’t believe that people are born with one purpose in life. Just as this world is constantly changing and we need to adapt to it, I am determined to adapt to my circumstances. If there is meaning to be found in all this, then I will also find a way to share it to help others.
I don’t know if I will ever use my education again, except for writing, or as a basis for something else I’m good at, which is research. I will be content that I was once a teacher to the best 3 kiddos when we homeschooled, now years ago. In fact, I am learning contentment in all things. It is a lifelong process. It also involves un-learning some things, like caring about what others think of me.
How can we judge another person, when we have not walked in their shoes?
Now that I am older (goodness, I am approaching a half-century milestone in only weeks!), I have seen how my perceptions and judgments have changed over time. Gone are the days when I blamed my parents for many of my enduring troubles, because I see this is merely history repeating itself, for don’t we all do this to some degree when we are young and think ourselves wiser than we really are? Instead, I can now say that I have walked in their shoes from time to time, even if only in hindsight of memory, and knowing a bit more about the nature vs. nurture influences in their lives that have continued into my own.
This awareness sobers my judgment, and heals over the wounds of the past, increasing my ability to love them more. And not just my parents… but other family members and friends, old and new, as well.
But, am I becoming more lovable? Even in isolation, due to my sensory issues?
If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If no one is listening, is it noticed? If I speak, will anyone listen? I suppose that is why I write. But will anyone who reads this comment? Does anyone want to know more about me? About my art? About SPD? Or something else? Will anyone read this to the end?
This is only part one. Part two will follow in a few days. Will there be a part three? I really don’t know. It depends if anyone wants to have a conversation.
But I am not looking for pity or sympathy. I’m looking for kindness, just like everyone else.
Until then, remember how much you are blessed, and be a blessing to others, in whatever small way is possible. It might make someone’s day.
I’m not talking about that emerald spring green that I love so much. Oh, but we did enjoy it while it lasted, as a few (several) photos will show. Spring was a bountiful display of some happy new perennials, even though most of my early spring bulbs were affected by the prolonged winter, and by the deer that discovered many emerging bulbs this year.
I did spend a lot of time and money last year trying to infuse more variety into the gardens, in colour and blooming times. The vast majority of plants around the house were blooming in the summer, so I attempted to make the waiting time shorter for this year. I was so hopeful that I was going out almost every day expecting to see welcome changes. It was good while it lasted!
Here are a few of my spring favourites:
Now, this here pic that follows shows the early signs of what I dreaded might happen. I must admit that I enjoyed the energy they brought to the garden, and in truth, if there wasn’t so much birdseed being shoved onto the ground, maybe the rodent population would not have boomed! There have been times that the blue jays were to blame, but the feeder rising up from that post became the habit of several pairs of black birds, and they raked through the feed relentlessly. You would think they were looking for something, but they were very bad at finding whatever it was. My husband was filling up the feeder almost every 2 days, and when he came home from work, he saw it spread on the hill of the garden in a wide diameter with birds and rodents everywhere.
If the black birds would have only taken a bit at a time, like the other birds, and wouldn’t have come back so often to make a mess of things, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But we desperately need a different spot for the feeder to discourage so much trampling of my plants, which cost a great deal to put there in the first place. This is an early photo of the area, but my hosta and the black-eyed susans near the base of this feeder are stunted from all the fondling by the chipmunks and squirrels looking for seed! They’re even eating the coneflower heads before the flowers can bloom. It’s not uncommon to see 5 chipmunks at the same time in the same area of the garden. We’re long overdue for some traps. 😦 Otherwise, I’m afraid they will be trying to get into our house in the fall/winter. The number of new holes around the house is a bad indication.
After a late end to winter and a rather short spring, we have also been enduring a long period of heat waves with few slightly cooler days to break it up. Bracebridge has had a fire ban for a while now.
Last year, it rained all summer and the spring green colours stayed on almost into August, with my black-eyed susans taking that long to finally bloom for the lack of sun. This year is completely different. I haven’t complained about the heat, not after that extended winter we had, but my gardens are not yielding me much joy this year, and it isn’t just the heat to blame…
[Hover over the photos above for descriptions (or click on the images).]
This photo shows that the yellow lilies in the back were wonderful, but that was all I got in June. They were so fragrant! Oh, the little snail sculpture in front is no more – I went out one day to find that its face was 4 feet away (not the whole head, just its face…). And, see the delphiniums getting taller in behind? Wait for it…
Now, for my chicks and hens… Let’s just say that the roosters are plentiful this year.
Each grouping of photos show the development of the roosters. These aren’t the only ones, but they’re the most interesting. Apparently, when the hen is going to die off, it transforms into a “rooster,” sending up a rather phallic-looking growth, which then flowers and spends its seed on future chicks. Meanwhile the current year’s chicks turn into next year’s hens. I thought it was the coolest thing when I saw this happen for the first time last year, but there was only one then. This year, there are at least 6 and I’m showing you 3 of them.
And then there was the promise of the iridescent blue and purple delphiniums. This is what they looked like on June 30, and look how many more were yet to get showy!
But I went away for a few days, and when I returned, this is what I found. The squirrels and chipmunks took down ALL of them, and nothing could be done.
I kind of gave up for a while after this. My expectations became very low.
Well, the feeder is currently still standing in the same spot, but hubby puts out very little on the platform and does not fill it. We like the birds (except for the black varieties… ahem), so it would be a shame to take it down, all because of the few that have ruined a good thing. But the garden territory was not meant to sustain so many families of chipmunks, common squirrels, and now even more red squirrels… They need to move on, not move in. Yikes!
That aside, at least there is hope for some relief from the heat soon. And here is the latest sign of beauty in my front garden, soon to be joined by bursting black-eyed susans. Summer blooms are finally arriving, and I hope they can last well into the fall!
Ahhh, this is the good life! When at home, enjoy the bug-free outdoors in your own screened-in porch! Day and night.
It took us a while. We knew that after 2 years of black flies and mosquitoes, we wouldn’t do well living next to so many trees. But with a late start to the spring, and a short one at that, my husband was still building this protective enclosure when it was getting too hot to work in it anymore. He finished closing it in with the screens at the end of June, and he continued to work away on finishing the outside while it was 34 degrees C (or nearly 95 F).
But, the view from inside the structure is magnificent. I didn’t even realize that I could watch the sunset from my own backyard, as it goes down through the trees (look right in the center of the photo). And there is a breeze that was non-existent from the other deck.
All that is left are the roof, whether that is shingles or metal (it still remains to be decided, so the roof has a temporary covering to protect the pine from the rain), and other minor, but time-consuming, finishing touches. That doesn’t stop us from fully enjoying it as it is. We come out in the evenings after supper and watch Masterchef Australia as season 10 is nearing the finale.
It’s so cozy in here that you could sleep comfortably under the stars – safe from the bugs, out of the dew, and lately it’s been so warm that there’s no need for a sleeping bag. But, I can’t promise you’d be able to sleep in, because there are just too many critters making a racket at 4 a.m.
I’m blessed to have such a peaceful haven for a backyard. Now, I can create art out here too!
I did have a visitor on July 4th, much to my surprise. First, it landed on the closest tree beside me, and it peeked around both sides of the trunk at me. What was that flurry of red? And so big… Aha!
Then, it hopped over to the next tree, which is mostly dead… (watch the video and see what it did next)
And, here’s another, much smaller, fellow… Red squirrels are rather shy, but when I’m in the porch, I see them all the time, only a few feet away.
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!
The Bracebridge Town Hall has once again welcomed members from Muskoka Arts & Crafts Inc. to show their work within the community.
MAC member artists who have submitted works for this show will have their art on display at the Bracebridge Town Hall for a 2 month period, starting May 31 until August 1, 2018. Continued future shows are likely.
This time around, two of my originals will be showing. Both pieces have cottage colours, but are different styles in acrylic painting. The first, titled “Off Grid Sabbatical,” is made from acrylic skins with the look of stained glass. The second, titled “Rugged Rectangles,” is a textured, abstract piece and uses some metallic colours.
Both of these pieces should be seen in person to appreciate them completely, not only for their textural elements, but also for the way the light dances along the surface to bring out the layered colours.
Anyone can stop in at the town hall to view the paintings on display throughout the halls. Most of them are for sale, and visitors can inquire to purchase while they are there.
Recently, I happened to discover “Art of Where,” which is a company based out of Montreal, Quebec that offers on-demand printing of artwork, along with a variety of unique products that can be made from digital art images. So, I have set up a shop to offer some unique products using my own images, from prints to pillows, and scarves to kimonos.
For a few years now, I have been looking for a Canadian-based company so that I don’t have to pay customs fees on international orders. That way, I can offer my customers more reasonably priced products.
I also have a shop on Fine Art America, but they can ship only art prints from within Canada, while all their other products (mugs, pillows, etc.) are made in and shipped from the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.
If you are a Canadian artist and have suggestions regarding where you have offered your own unique products on demand, please forward them to me! I’m looking for quality, as you are, of course, but also for the right price (no extra shipping/customs fees for our customers in Canada).
Here is the link to my shop, if you would like to have a look! Art of Where: Michelle Vyn – Vine Art
I have added only a few images so far, but if you are interested in a print/product from one of my paintings that is not yet on the Art of Where website, please let me know.
Here are just a few samples of products they offer, using a few of my shop images:
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.
This upcoming art show is for Huntsville Art Society (HAS) members only. As a brand new member of HAS, I must admit, I struggled with selecting which of my finished pieces fit the theme, “Uncorked, Unbuttoned, Unbridled.” I narrowed it down to 3 pieces, and then I asked my husband how he thought they fit the theme. When he heard the show title, he gave me a look with raised eyebrows, and I could immediately sense that his imagination conjured up some interesting ideas.
I’ve had my art selected for similar, theme-styled member shows before (with Muskoka Arts & Crafts), where the theme was open to interpretation, and only a handful of members were able to submit on the theme, sometimes keeping with a very literal interpretation. I didn’t have time to create a new piece before the entry deadline in this case (as a very new member), so I looked through my inventory of finished pieces.
I didn’t explain to my husband my reasons for choosing the above 3 pieces, not until after he confirmed or denied whether they fit in the least. Obviously, these are 3 very different styles and subject matter. The phoenix is bursting into new life while its body has been forgotten in death (turned into rock in the lower right corner, with spring flowers already blooming, as if it is a fertile rock garden). “Piano Blues” conjured up (for me) thoughts of dancing along to some upbeat jazz and getting right into the party. In my hubby’s opinion, my phoenix painting got his thumbs up, while “Piano Blues” was a stretch. “Convergence of the Four Winds” could also have fit the bill, with its aerial view of cyclonic winds let loose on the world. So, I submitted 2 out of 3 images accordingly, and waited.
It turns out that many members entered the show, and I don’t know if any were turned away, but only one piece per member was chosen, mainly for space reasons. Having only a limited idea from thumbnail photos of accepted entries, I’m still wondering how some of them fit the theme, but maybe I will understand when I see them in person. Such is the way of interpretation.
See the poster below, along with my submission that was accepted into this juried art show. Surprised?
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.
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.
He even looks a little chubby when he is at rest. So sweet!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I know it might sound strange to say I’ve been busy writing, while the number of posts I’ve made here doesn’t remotely approach the total word count. But, I am forced to keep it under wraps, at least for a short duration.
I’ve decided to enter some of my writing into various contests, which require that the writing has not been previously published or even within the judging period (not even on a personal blog). The winning entries from these contests are to be published for the first time, so I don’t want to disqualify any work that I’ve entered.
Today, I submitted a short story for this contest: The CRAFT Short Fiction Prize
It’s the first year I have ever entered writing contests, and I have mapped out several for the coming months. One could plan out a whole calendar year of entries! Since I’ve only recently decided to do this, I’ve made 3 contest deadlines in the past 2 days. Keep in mind that these were mainly finished stories that only needed to be tweaked to stay within the entry guidelines. I’ve submitted not only genre fiction stories, but also non-fiction essays/memoirs, poetry, and a children’s story. Most of my ideas for full-length books are still in my head, but these are snippets from them.
Entering contests is one way for me to step into the writing world. They serve to add a little motivation, as long as the timing is right for me to polish an entry.
Eventually, I will get some things published, but I have to be my own editor, cover designer, etc. for indie publishing. Children’s books require a lot of illustrations, and it all takes time. My memoir is currently sitting at 115,000 words, and I’m not finished. I think it will need to be divided into 2 very different finished books, but I will get there!
Meanwhile, there is always art to express myself, when words fail. It seems I am always doing one or the other lately (painting or writing), because there is healing to be found through the arts.
To all you writers reading this: I hope this has encouraged you to be courageous and submit your writing. Take a look at some of the past winning entries and honourable mentions that are published on contest websites to see what the judges thought stood out from the rest.
We lost a true friend this April. I write this to honour the furry fella, Mako the Golden.
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.
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.
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.
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!
April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day, and I’m sharing my Peaceful Sea Turtle in recognition of both Autism (ASD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Some people with autism don’t like what the “puzzle” pieces signify in the autism awareness logos and materials, understandably, since those with ASD and/or SPD are not missing pieces that would make them whole, not at all. So, in an effort to respect this view, I am in the process of creating an illustrated children’s book with an alternative way of picturing neurodiversity, using the imagery of the senses, with illustrations that capture colours, patterns and texture. Just as every person is different, so is everyone with ASD or SPD.
The characters in my book are sea turtles, with one main turtle who swims apart from the others and follows her heart. Some of the illustrations (below) have been completed for some time now. Can you see the similarities and differences amongst them, the variety in their genetic makeup and the multipotentiality of talents that make each individual unique and full of purpose?!
I am currently writing the words of the story, and the other illustrations and art are still coming together in my visual mind. When it is complete, I will announce it on my website and blog.
April is Autism Awareness Month in the USA. Each year, in October, Canada recognizes Autism awareness and Sensory Processing Disorder awareness. Please continue to share the awareness literature and logos of various organizations around the world, as it all helps! These days, everyone knows someone with ASD, but they might not know anything more than a set of symptoms for classic autism, which can leave a person with a very limited, in-the-box, stereotypical view of autism. That was how I viewed autism (when I first heard of it), before I went to teacher’s college, took additional courses in special education, and continued to educate myself for the sake of people I know with ASD and SPD. In addition, I used to wonder why I experienced so many sensory issues, but I now know for certain that I have SPD myself. It accounts for many of the health issues that seriously affect my quality of life. So, yes, I know much from first-hand experience.
There are many severe challenges for people with ASD (many are listed under SPD). These challenges can be a combination of social, emotional, mental and/or physical. They can affect/hinder communication (spoken, written), even attempts at expressing feelings or describing physical symptoms; organization (of thoughts, schedules, etc.); perception of sensory input, whether hyper- or hypo-sensitive; etc. etc. It was recently announced that 1 in 66 children in Canada between the ages of 5 to 17 are diagnosed with Autism. The figures for reported diagnoses in females is rising, due to awareness of how Autism manifests differently in females. Most of the research has been done on males to come up with the criteria for ASD diagnosis, so females have a difficult time getting an accurate diagnosis.
Neurodiversity needs to be accepted and supported. The world needs different thinkers and doers! In fact, the world would not have so many advances in science, technology, engineering, maths, and the arts (visual arts, music, theatre, etc.), if it weren’t for so many neurodiverse thinkers throughout history.
This Sunday, many will be singing, He is risen!! Happy Easter to all!
A few years ago, I wanted to create something memorable for Easter, but how can an artist create a painting that is only for one day of the year? After all, salvation is the gift from God that keeps on giving, and we can celebrate that every day of the year, not just on Easter. The finished painting is very stylized – I combined elements from contemporary art and some very ancient mosaics from early Christianity.
The painting was on display that year for Easter Sunday, and I was asked to explain what all the symbolism means, because there’s so much that can be missed. I always tend to pack a lot of meaning into my writing and my art, so I’ll try to bring it all together in a way that can be understood without too much theology. If I have missed any explanation, please let me know by commenting below.
Now, where to begin? . . .
Let’s start at the top of the painting. An ancient water jug is being held and poured (by unseen divine hands) into a chalice, where the water has turned into new wine (the bread sits beside the cup). This might remind you of the first sign that Jesus performed when he turned water into wine. In addition, near the end of his life, Jesus shared the cup (of wine) and bread with his disciples and he told them to continue to do this in remembrance of him. This practice is continued through the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and believers also look forward to the day when they will share in the wedding feast of the Lamb after the Lord’s return, when they will drink the new wine that he promised.
Reaching up through the inside of the cross is a tree (which looks more like a vine, but that’s okay if one thinks of John 15, where Jesus called himself the true Vine, and says that if we want to bear fruit, then we must remain in him). It was intended at first to be a tree to remind us that the cross is made from a tree, since it was prophesied that the Christ would be hung (put to death) on a tree like a criminal, even though he was innocent. It also represents the tree of life. The roots of the tree are shown to remind us that we need to become rooted and grow deeper in the faith. It is fitting that the anchor is with the roots, because Christ is the anchor who holds believers steady and firm in the storms of life (much like having deeper roots would keep us steady and firm). When believers depend on him, their faith becomes steadier in the process.
Now, for the center circle. There are three main spirals in gold which represent the Trinity. The center is yellow like the sun, the brightest thing we have seen, and yet, God’s glory is even brighter than the sun. The spirals in the center and the ropework, or braiding, in the outer circle are Celtic motifs (mainly from Ireland – my ancestry). Notice that the braid is a three-stranded cord and it has no end, again pointing to the Trinity and that God is eternal. (A friend also mentioned the meaning from Ecclesiastes 4:12 – Yes, there is meaning in art for the viewer which even the artist does not intend, but it is meaning all the same!)
Okay, so now, what is going on with the scene that the cross is overlapping? There are two cliffs on either side, between which is a chasm, and the cross is the bridge from one side to the other. What Jesus did on the cross has made it possible for us to turn from sin and accept His invitation to new life. He draws us to Himself, and we can come to him in confession and repentance to receive forgiveness for all our sins. He only needed to accomplish it once, and on the cross he did it – once, and for ALL. It’s our turn to respond, and to do so before it’s too late. Our response is to praise him, offering a public profession of our faith, which includes baptism.
Just as Jesus was resurrected with a new body, so also will believers be resurrected one day with a new body, but only because of what he has done. Believers receive a foretaste of a future resurrection when they are baptized, as it is written in Romans 6:4 (also on the painting): “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” In other words, baptized believers are buried in their sin, by the water of baptism, but they are raised as they emerge from the water into the new life of a Christ follower. This is another sacrament through which Christians celebrate what Christ has done and profess love for him publicly.
Some other symbols surround the cross: The Holy Spirit is depicted in the form of a dove, and the fire also symbolizes the presence of God’s Spirit residing within the believer (just as on the day of Pentecost). The Holy Spirit is the Helper who Jesus promised He would send when He returned to the Father. And he (the Spirit) is present with each and every believer everywhere on Earth. He sanctifies believers for the work of the Church, and he does so much more work in believers than I can describe here.
One of the fish in the water is an early Christian symbol of a Christ follower – the Greek letters spell out the word “Ichthus,” which means “fish,” but it is an early acronym to proclaim: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour (in the Greek: “Ίησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ”; or when transliterated: Iēsous Christos, Theou Huios, Sōtēr).
The scroll represents the Word of God and was the early form of the Bible (before bounded books with individual pages). On the scroll are the letters Alpha and Omega, another of the many names of Christ found in the book of Revelation, referring to him being the beginning and the end, just as Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Alpha and Omega also refers to Jesus being creator of all things within time, and the author and finisher of our faith. The Bible itself is a precious gift from God to humankind, since it is “special revelation” of His plan for all people everywhere and of His provision of a Redeemer/Saviour.
And full circle back to the top right where we look to the clouds, for that is where the gospels leave off… this is where we will see Christ’s return in glory! While that time is appointed by God, it is unknown to us, but believers are warned to be ready, not to be anxious or afraid, and to stand firm to the end, trusting in God’s faithfulness throughout time.
If you would like to see this painting in my online gallery, find it here.
Finally, I came up with 3 entries into the Muskoka Arts & Crafts’ 41st Annual Spring Members’ Art Show. It took me a while, but I did it, and here they are:
Members could submit up to 3 pieces for the juried show, as long as they have been completed within the last 2 years and have not been entered to previous Spring Members’ Shows. Since I wasn’t as active in the past year creating art, I found myself in January trying to complete 3 brand new pieces (my bears and foxes were entered last year). Unfortunately, I ran out of time to complete the 3rd piece that was using the same technique. I will eventually complete it and reveal it in another post. Instead, for the 3rd piece, I chose a small one I completed a few months ago, using Pebeo mixed media products.
People often ask me about this technique. I will explain, using some older photos from when I did my first piece using this process. First, I need to plan it on paper, and then I draw a grid over it and map it out on the larger canvas area. The first time I did this, I wasn’t sure how detailed of a trimming job I could do to the acrylic skins (for fear that they would be too fragile), so the shapes are fairly simple. I was trying to achieve a stained glass “look.” Next, I needed to create the acrylic skins, which was the painting stage, but this was done “directly” on a piece of plastic, so that I could peel it off when it dried and cut out the shapes. This planning stage was time consuming, because if I didn’t like how a sheet turned out, I would have to make more, and they take a long time to dry. Sometimes my layout would need to change in the process.
The most time consuming part was prioritizing what sections of acrylic skins were to be designated for use on the canvas, and then cutting them to shape, and adhering them. Here are a couple of pics to show the process with my much more detailed “Dancing With the Wind” piece.
As you can see, the pouring medium that is mixed with the paint to make the acrylic skins does dry to a glossy sheen. It is very difficult to get a great photograph of these pieces, so they must be seen in person!
If you are in the Bracebridge area this weekend, here are the details of the show: