Location: Saskatchewan

Painter Geoff Phillips and His Rural Reflections

arts-quest-geoff-phillips-whispering-pinesNot our last interview but our last stop in Saskatchewan took us to painter Geoff Phillips’ house in Maple Creek. We had been through Maple Creek once before but this time it was with fresh eyes. It’s a cute little town in southern Saskatchewan nestled within the prairie landscape and close to the Saskatchewan/Alberta border. It was here that Geoff and Connie decided to move their family from Calgary, with both sets of grandparents following in hot pursuit soon after.

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It would appear that the Phillips family lives an idyllic life in Maple Creek. Geoff’s steady income comes from their next door neighbour, the local Co-op food store where he works in the meat department. Besides not having to drive to work, living right next door has other benefits too. When he is not helping customers with their meat requirements sometimes they come in and ask to see his artwork. He asks his boss if he can pop home to show it to them, bloody apron and all, and off he goes. Only in a small town.

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For the past 6 years Geoff has had the good fortune of being the artist in residence at the Cypress Hills Inter-provincial Park for one month in the summer. But it is no coincidence that Geoff has had this opportunity for 6 years running. His unique style gives park visitors not only an appreciation for Geoff’s art but also for the surroundings that comprise the park itself. What started out as a pilot project has turned into a marvelous draw to the park, with subsequent years also being funded to carry on the successful project. With his family’s encouragement and the well wishes of his employer he stays at the park to paint and run workshops for visitors. His paintings are based around the flora and fauna of the park and are meant to bring awareness to those who make the journey there. Geoff’s art is colourful and certainly very eye-pleasing so his pieces attract people like honey attracts bees. Every year Geoff packs up his canvasses, paints, brushes and a theme that he will incorporate into his work while he is there. This past August he worked on 12 very large canvasses and painted micro sections of the park depicting the landscape and the common plant species which are found there.

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I have found over the last 6 years of doing interviews that each artist’s process is just as unique as the art they create. During his stay in Cypress Hills Park, Geoff will go out and wander the woods until he finds an intriguing spot he wants to bring to life on canvass. I would have thought a few pictures and maybe a sketch book would be what he would use to gather material for his piece. Instead he pulls out his really large canvass and spreads it out over the ground and then proceeds to stomp on it with his shoes to try to get it to lay as flat as possible, but of course there are always lumps and bumps creating hills and valleys. No matter, Geoff pulls out a can of brownish acrylic paint and proceeds to map out his future painting. He paints in oils but acrylic dries quicker for this part of the process. He then packs up and heads back to the art cabin where he adds a layer of primer and then proceeds with the oils. There are a few reference pictures taken as well. As Geoff puts it, it is very crude but he likes doing it this way because he can really get a feel for the spot he wants to paint and this helps to ignite the passion that goes into his work.

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When Gary and I stopped in on Geoff to do his interview we also got to see the new workshop and painting studio that he and Connie recently added to their home. Both Geoff and Connie, who is also an artist, have collaborated to bring all kinds of art programs through The Art House to the town of Maple Creek. They offer their artistic expertise to help guide children and adults through their own artistic expression, whether it be at a Splatter Party where one gets to pretend they are Jackson Pollock, or something a little more structured like learning the basics of drawing. It is obvious that both the Phillips family and the town of Maple Creek have benefited from their arrival. Geoff and Connie are bringing art to their community by teaching others how to express their creativity. They also enjoy the exposure of their art lining the walls of the local pub and restaurant and in the form of Geoff’s huge mural that was commissioned by the town of Maple Creek for the Heritage District revitalization program.

So if you ever find yourself in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan stop in to the Co-op, ask for Geoff at the meat counter and ask to see his art. He’ll be glad to oblige.

Be sure to check out our interview with Geoff. Also, help us spread the word about Geoff through social media by sharing this blog post. Clickable buttons are provided below for your convenience. And we love comments so please feel free to leave a nice one about Geoff and his work below. Thank you!

Rita St. Amant’s Art Is To Dye For

Rita St. Amant’s Art Is To Dye For

"Sunflower" - hand dyed, applique, free motion thread painting

As we journeyed across Canada in search of artists to interview we passed through many larger urban centres, but mostly we came across the smaller towns as we traversed the roads less traveled. Willow Bunch in south central Saskatchewan was one such destination; a small town steeped in history, from its celebrated native son, giant and strongman Édouard Beaupré, to its connections to Jean-Louis Légaré and the famous Sioux leader Sitting Bull. It was here, in this pretty little town nestled within a small valley that we met up with fibre and mixed media artist Rita St. Amant.

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With a little trepidation we left Assiniboia and headed for Willow Bunch; Rita warning us of crater-sized potholes in the road that could swallow up our beloved 25 year old van Arty, or at the very least deliver a concussive blow. Also, Rita thought that her interview was for the day before our planned arrival. As it turned out our faithful chariot made it there in one piece and Rita was also still there, waiting for us with some carrot and zucchini cake, to be chased down with coffee and tea. So far so good.

"Big Muddy Valley" - needle felting

“Big Muddy Valley” – needle felting

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Descending to Rita’s basement studio and gallery one might think of a dark workplace devoid of natural light, but the multitudes of brightly coloured fabrics in every corner and space defy any gloom, and instead greeted our eyes with gusto. Some fabrics rest in their completed forms as quilted art pieces, silks or scarves, while others are waiting to be transformed into her next idea. Rita hand dyes most of her own fabrics with very little usage of commercial product, and will employ different techniques to do so. She uses an ancient Japanese fabric dyeing technique called shibori; a method which can involve folding the fabric in certain configurations or also wrapping it around a foam noodle before dyeing to create stunning patterns. She will also bind stones of differing sizes in the fabric with elastics to create other engaging designs. Varying effects are also created with the use of stenciling, a potato masher, and even used dryer sheets. Rita’s imagination reveals that there are endless possibilities for textile art and the mixed media that one can employ.

"Saskatchewan Tiger Lily" - hand painted on silk

“Saskatchewan Tiger Lily” – hand painted on silk

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Rita related to us that she has always wanted to be an artist, loving to draw as a little girl and then also moving into painting. She was influenced by her parents, with her father enjoying drawing and her mother being very artistic and involved with various crafts. Her first interest into the world of fibre arts came when she was at an art exhibit and was fascinated by the textile arts of Martha Cole, who proved to be a huge influence for Rita. That sparked her initial foray into fibre art and she hasn’t looked back, with over ten years now of creating her own works of art. She notes that the feel of the cloth and the many varied forms of art one can do with it explains why she has taken to the textile arts, but also that the mixed media challenges her to grow and think outside the box. Though a self-taught artist, Rita enjoys the camaraderie that going to art retreats brings; sharing ideas and techniques with other artists.

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Rita and her husband love to travel in their motor-home, and it is on these excursions that they both indulge in their pastimes and passions. He scours the landscape with his metal detector searching for buried treasure in the form of coins, while Rita takes her fabric dyeing process on the road with her. Depending on the area that they find themselves in, Rita will also include what she finds in these natural surroundings to incorporate into her fabric patterns, such as using varieties of leaves and plants. So whether at home or on the road, Rita’s love for her natural surroundings and the colours and textures that it brings is always a source of awe and inspiration for her next project.

Learn more about Rita and her art work in our interview with her shown below. Feel free to share on social media and leave a comment below if you like.

The Inspirational Works of Painter Laura Hamilton

The Inspirational Works of Painter Laura Hamilton

I am thrilled when I come across something that makes we ask, “Why?”. Humans are a curious bunch and I’m right up there on the top of the heap. Artists are definitely one group of people that have helped to feed my voracious appetite for curiosity. After 150 interviews I find myself not yet tiring of what seems like the same old questions I ask time and time again because the answers are never the same. When I came across the girls, ladies and women with no face and crazy hair my curiosity was about to boil over, and I immediately had at least half a dozen questions for painter Laura Hamilton.

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Laura started out in her young life as a school teacher, and this was the career path she thought she would be on for all of her working years. Then one day baby Lincoln arrived and the Hamilton’s were now a family of four. This should have been a happy occasion but for Laura she found herself lost in the caverns of postpartum depression following the birth of her second son. Laura explained it was a very difficult state to overcome, but as time passed and with medical help she was able to go back to work after her year on maternity leave. Unfortunately, this would prove to be a bit of a disaster for Laura to the point where she would make herself sick with anxiety and panic attacks. Then, one day there was a tipping point and Laura was driven home from school with a one month leave of absence in tow. During that time she received some words of advice from her mother-in-law that would help to change her life. Laura took the advice and started to nurture herself back to health and, with the help of her husband, she was able to spend time reading, meditating and learning to love herself again. The rest of Laura’s story is full of inspiration and hope.

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The month leave of absence was almost over when Laura decided she was going to paint. She had been watching artist Buzz Siler from Portland, Oregon on You Tube, and was fascinated with his technique. Immediately she went looking for paint and tools to get started; a few cans of household latex paint and a screw driver ought to do it. What happened next for Laura was nothing short of an awakening; an outline of a girl began to take shape right before her eyes. This girl is Lucy and considered by Laura to be the first of her many “daughters”. Laura revealed to us that Lucy was the start of a new beginning for her. At the time, she represented all the things that Laura wasn’t. She was strong, bold and brave, and these characteristics gave Laura the strength and courage to change her life. When we met with Laura in September another school year had already begun, but Mrs. Hamilton was no longer in attendance. As of the end of the 2015/16 school year Laura and her husband decided to take a leap of faith and invest in her art career, and now she paints and paints and paints.

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After our interview Laura took us to her painting studio for a demo, which, if not for all her paintings leaning gracefully against the walls I may have thought this was a place a commercial house painter stored her equipment until the next job. There was a table in the middle of the room with a bad case of paint measles and a closet and shelves with all kinds of bargain bin paint cans from the local hardware store. What a surprise! This was not what I was expecting at all. Of course my curiosity was really starting to get the best of me by this time. Laura’s painting technique involves a canvas which lays flat on the table, a bunch of water, cans of various colours of oil based household paint, big, fat paint brushes, her fingers and a whole lot of intuition and trust. It’s a process that takes some time. Laura starts with an idea which can spark from a memory of her childhood, a photo, wallpaper, or even just a single colour. She sketches out a rough outline of her new daughter, applies water, paint, more water, more paint and keeps coming back to her until her aura shines through, at which point she is done. Laura says she has a starting point but really doesn’t know where the finished piece will actually end up.

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So why the no face and the crazy hair? Laura admits the hair is probably a reflection of her own curly locks but the lack of facial features is more symbolic. She wants people to really connect with the women in her paintings and she feels that by not giving them features it makes it easier for that to happen. She wants them to represent a spirit or a being, not a real person. They are symbols of courage, free-spiritedness, playfulness, purity, bravery, confidence, kindness and a re-connection to nature. Laura and her daughters give the gift of hope and inspiration to all of us.

We invite you to have a listen to Laura as she talks about how her art changed her life. Also, kindly help us spread the word about Laura and her art by sharing this post on social media. And we love comments so feel free to leave a nice one below. Thank-you.

Parsons Dietrich Pottery Fires Form and Function

Parsons Dietrich Pottery Fires Form and Function

Today we went to church. Or rather, it used to be a church, now it is a pottery studio/gallery and the creators we were meeting this day were Wendy, Zach and Devon, a family of ceramic artists and owners of Parsons Dietrich Pottery in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Prior to being moved to its current location by the previous owners, the little church had been abandoned and last used in the 1960s. As we walked through the front doors to the wonderfully displayed gallery, we thought what better venue to create and display artistic and functional ceramics than a building of unique architecture and a work of art on its own? While we waited for Wendy to finish up with some customers Zach took us on an educational tour of the studio; explaining the processes, equipment, glazes and function of their kilns, which include wood, gas, electric and soon-to-be soda-fired.

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Wendy Parsons and Zach Dietrich have had their hands in the clay for over forty years now, and the road to their historic church storefront started in the 1970s when they met at university in Regina. A pioneering spirit then led them to a three year adventure in northern Saskatchewan building a log cabin, growing a garden and building a wood-fired kiln in a back-to-the-land lifestyle. The hard work was satisfying but the isolation of their homestead did not serve their needs for reaching the “outside” world with their pottery. So in 1980 they moved to Moose Jaw; first renting out the church basement for pottery production and then eventually buying the building.

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We’ve all heard the stereotypical concern of parents worried about their children going off to become an artist as opposed to getting a “real” job. Fortunately, their son Devon grew up without those preconceptions; his parents quashing any doubts by their own example, with Zach and Wendy finding early on in their careers a receptive public buying their work. They realized back then at these sold-out fairs that they could indeed make a living selling pottery. Apprenticing under his parents, Devon now has many years of pottery throwing and hand-building under his belt and is continuing to develop his own style.

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Zach, Wendy and Devon each contribute to the business in their own ways and with their own style and preference to form. Wendy loves to teach, and will provide workshops to supplement the pottery production. Her style lends itself to both the figurative and fun side as well as the artistic narrative side. She loves to tell a story through her pieces, and her ’roundel series’ exemplifies that quality. She had interviewed numerous farmers and learned of their stories of life on the farm, including hardship and perseverance in the face of daunting circumstances, be it from low grain prices, havoc-wreaking weather, or diseased livestock. These roundels tell their story. Her artistry also shines in her figurative pieces, whether on her own or in collaborated works with Zach such as on the cookie jars and tea pots.

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With tongue in cheek, Zach notes that his germanic heritage encourages pottery production…and more pottery production! Undeniably his decades of experience throwing clay shows in the yielding of many beautiful and elegant functional pieces of pottery, and he admits that he is gratified more by bringing well-turned pieces into the world than on other more time consuming works. But on occasion Zach has stepped away from his prolific specialty to indulge in other interesting projects, such as the series of tile wall pieces he created and framed in wood, or a school project where the children made tiles from start to finish and were then attached to a constructed wood bench.

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Devon enjoys specializing in the hand-building methods of clay including both figurative works as well as experimenting with different functional designs, such as his wave handle mug, a signature piece of his. Being science-minded he also takes on the task of testing out and mixing the different glazes to see which ones will be suitable for their clay pieces, both in consistency and colour. The three potters will also collaborate on work, helping to glaze each other’s pieces or decorating with hand-building to arrive at the finished product.

So when you are passing by Moose Jaw on the highway and you see the little white church of Parsons Dietrich Pottery, stop in to say hi to Wendy, Zach and Devon and take a look around.

Enjoy our video interview below and feel free to share on social media. Nice comments are always welcome too!

Kristin MacPherson: Through the Eyes of the Artist

Kristin MacPherson: Through the Eyes of the Artist

Most of us are familiar with the saying the eyes are the windows to the soul, but did you know that this isn’t just a metaphor? There is scientific evidence that indicates a person’s eyes really are a window; to their feelings or intentions. Facial expressions can be forced, such as with a smile, but our eyes reveal all so our natural tendency is to avoid excessive eye contact because, for the most part, it makes us feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. The eyes also affirm beauty, peace, happiness, contentment and so many other things that make us want to get to know someone. When we sat down with Kristin MacPherson she revealed to us, not through her eyes, but through her art that it is this physical feature that ignites her curiosity and compels her to want to make people’s faces the subject of many of her paintings and photographs.

Kristin and Lenore

Kristin and Lenore

As with many artists, Kristin grew up in a family of creative people, (parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles) each accompanied with tons of encouragement for Kristin to express herself creatively. When it was time to choose an education the likely candidate was a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree but the perceived reality was to find something that would land her a job. It turns out that photography was the path she would take, and although she didn’t realize it at the time it has played an important role helping her become the artist she is today.

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When we arrived at Kristin’s home where she lives with her husband, three daughters, two dachshunds and her ’53 Buick named Lenore it was easy to see we were entering the home of an artist. There are often signs An Artist Lives Here by the paintings on the wall, or the sculptures on the mantel, but more often than not the art studio is tucked away in a spare room, garage or basement area where the artist has the option of “To be tidy or not to be tidy? That is the question”. In Kristin’s case, the front room is her art studio, up front and center for all who enter the house to see. It was pretty tidy too! An advantage? A disadvantage? Perhaps. Or maybe to Kristin it doesn’t much matter either way. Paraphrasing, she looked at us and said, “it’s the room in the house we don’t use so it just made sense”.

Equality

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Although Kristin took applied photography in school, and it is in itself a form of art, her first love is painting. When I first looked at Kristin’s work I thought she was a watercolour painter but she actually uses acrylics. Her palette usually consists of only five colours and Kristin likes to keep it as simple as that. When she paints, her focus is on the eyes. That is not to say that the rest of the piece is not important but the eyes need to reveal themselves to her before she is satisfied that it is complete. It really excites her when the unexpected happens; the loose brush strokes and the paint gain a mind of their own, overlapping in shapes and patterns and flaunting randomness in such a way it gives the piece a free-spirited look.

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During our interview Kristin proclaimed that she has never taken a painting class and is solely self taught. She did say that it was photography that played a large role in making her a better painter. She spends a lot of time as a professional getting in other peoples faces so to speak. Those close-up shots have given her the opportunity to study the features of the face in great detail and with willing participants. I think the camera provides a barrier between photographer and subject which gives them each a safe place to look into each others eyes. Kristin gets to have a glimpse of the real person behind those eyes and her subject feels relaxed while this takes place. Photography has also enabled Kristin to see the element of light as she paints. Being able to see light and how it wraps itself around objects helps to bring her subjects to life on the canvas.

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Kristin’s fascination with what makes a person tick gives her the exuberance that is needed to go beyond just taking a picture or painting a piece. She works to bring that person out from behind those eyes, to tell their story, to show what really makes them who they are and not what their exterior projects them to be.

We invite you to watch and listen to Kristin as she shares more with us. We encourage you to help us spread the word about Kristin and her art on social media (for your convenience we have provided the buttons below). One more thing; we love comments so please feel free to leave a nice one below. With much gratitude, Corinne and Gary

Visual Artist Ladd Fogarty’s Life of Art and Inspiration

Visual Artist Ladd Fogarty’s Life of Art and Inspiration

"Muscowpetung Sage Woman" - acrylic on canvas

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up” – Pablo Picasso

“What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.” – Karl A. Menninger

Our featured interview with multidisciplinary fine artist and retired art teacher Ladd Fogarty of Emerald Park, Saskatchewan reminded me of the above quotes; our discovery of Ladd’s prolific teaching career and what he meant to his students, as well as his life-long passion for the arts and, like Picasso, an appetite for exploring multiple mediums. Although Ladd has been doing his art work for over thirty years now, it hasn’t been until these last eight years that he has truly taken on marketing his work as a professional artist. During the thirty years that he spent teaching students about the arts he fostered not only their creative gifts which led to their own artistic achievements, but he also forged enduring friendships with many of them.

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What is it that makes a great teacher? When we asked Ladd he mentioned not only patience, humour and a diverse skill base, but also the ability to draw out of a person their creative abilities that they never realized was inside of them. One such student was David Benjoe, who was an art student of Ladd’s at age 17 and doubtful of his artistic abilities. Ladd would say to him, “David, please don’t sell yourself short, art is another way to achieve what you enjoy in life”. Then, through Ladd’s urging he agreed to be part of an outreach arts workshop program for the elementary schools in the area, which he loved. This was his first introduction to leading in a classroom setting. He went on to become a teacher himself and is now on the verge of attaining his Masters of fine arts interdisciplinary. David concludes, “I can honestly say that he was the major influence in the path I took after we met way back in the 1990s”.

"Protecting Purity" - birch burl, soapstone, buffalo bone

“Protecting Purity” – birch burl, soapstone, buffalo bone

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The diversity of Ladd’s artistic media came about from various avenues and influences. He attributes personal desire in determining whether he feels like painting at the moment or working with his hands on a 3d object, which may involve acrylic paints, clay, wood, glass or soapstone. It depends on what story he is trying to tell; it could come from the potters wheel or the painting easel. As an art teacher he also had to learn about and present a multitude of mediums for his students to experiment with. His early exposure to art included his mother who was an opera singer and musician and still plays the violin to this day (Ladd also played in a dance band for about 12-15 years until losing a finger five years ago). His grandmother was a painter and his grandfather played the piano. His father happened to be a carpenter that became a master wood-turner in his retirement and was a great teacher for Ladd.

"Parallel Worlds" - acrylic on canvas

“Parallel Worlds” – acrylic on canvas

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Within the wood and clay pieces that Ladd creates you will see striking designs of geometry, figures and symbols; the clay pieces adorned with acrylic paints adding a lustrous finish. For wood he will use accoutrements such as acrylic paints, stained glass, soapstone, buffalo bone, porcupine quills, as well as stones such as turquoise, pipestone, magnesite and jet black. With already the richness of the wood itself to catch your eye, be it maple, birch or cherry, the additional colours and design add a beautiful touch. Ladd notes that when he is working with wood or clay he uses more symbolism and has a tendency to explore more abstract concepts.

"On The Way To Puskwakau" - acrylic on canvas

“On The Way To Puskwakau” – acrylic on canvas

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To Ladd his paintings relay the inspiration he gains from his natural surroundings as well as the experiences of the people who are a part of it. Ladd has a deep connection to First Nations people and their culture and his work reflects that. One such piece is “Muscowpetung Sage Woman”; the painting featured at the top. This piece was created as a donation to a charity auction to raise money for shelters for women and children of domestic violence. It is a personal piece that shows a woman and child, his adopted First Nations daughter with her daughter, looking over her shoulder to an old woman picking sage, a symbolic gesture of acknowledging her ancestral roots. It represents part of the healing process for a difficult time that she was going through.

Turquoise on birch

Turquoise on birch

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We finished up our interview with a tour of the family home to video Ladd’s art work on display; the house itself a part of his artistic handiwork. We had the pleasure of getting to know Ladd’s wife Liz and their daughter Kaitlyn as we sat down to a lovely lunch that they prepared. A stroll through the yard and garden (where we gratefully accepted some veggies for the road) capped off a wonderful day with the Fogartys.

Enjoy our interview with Ladd and please share his interview on social media. If you are inclined to leave a nice comment for Ladd please submit it below.

Sandy Christensen’s Clayful Characters

Sandy Christensen’s Clayful Characters

"Old Age and Beauty"

As we traveled south along highway #2 towards Watrous, Saskatchewan for our interview with ceramic artist Sandy Christensen, the sheen of Little Manitou Lake came into view as the gentle relief of land gave way to its shores. It was inevitable that we would visit these therapeutic mineral rich waters for a soak and a float, known as the “Dead Sea of Canada” and one of only three such bodies of water in the world. It was there at Manitou Beach that we also learned the history of Danceland, a 5000 square foot horse hair dance floor that has been around since 1928. Our spontaneous tour of this historic building came from 85 year old Ken Mackie, a veteran dance participant walking laps around the perimeter of the expansive dance floor at about 5 miles per day. Ken has a sharp wit, is humourous, and is an interesting fellow with many stories to tell. It is ironic that we met Ken before Sandy not knowing that he could have been the subject of inspiration for one of Sandy’s creative clay characters.

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Sandy Christensen has always had an affinity for clay, even as a young girl making mud pies. So it was serendipitous that when a woman who had moved back to the area and began teaching pottery lessons that Sandy jumped in and didn’t look back. Without this turn of events she notes that she may have done any number of other activities and never truly found the love for clay. Sandy soon discovered that even though she enjoyed making pots on the turning wheel, what she really loved was hand-building.

"Coffeetime"

“Coffeetime”

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Sandy loves to create ceramic characters and the stories they tell. In her completed works you will see playful youngsters doing what they typically do, familiar sibling interactions, and one little girl taking a stubborn stand against her father to protest…(insert your imagination here). But above all you will see what Sandy loves to create most, the venerable elders such as Ken, with their character lines and endless stories as she catches the essence of these “real” people in their daily lives.

"The Grass is Always Greener..."

“The Grass is Always Greener…”

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Many times Sandy will get commission statues to do for a member of someone’s family, and if that family truly knows the subject; how they dress, hobbies and especially funny quirks or memorable past situations, then Sandy will strive to capture that in her piece. She knows she has nailed it when the unveiling of the characterization evokes fits of laughter. So true to character is Sandy’s interpretation that families occasionally display pieces at funerals as fond remembrances of their loved ones.

"The Conversation"

“The Conversation”

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Sandy reveals that one of her favourite past-times is people watching, and so it makes sense that many of her ideas comes from observing how people look, what they say and what they are doing. She has noticed that if you look at people from a certain region, maybe from a certain occupation or of a certain advanced age, they tend to look very much alike. She notes that as we get older many of us will acquire a similar body shape, the greying hair and usually prescription glasses, revealing a stereotype that she enjoys incorporating into her art work. It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul. For Sandy’s pieces it is the face that is the window to the character. Although everything is important and must be in proportion, Sandy spends the most time on the face, trying to get the accurate likeness of the person and evoking the desired expression. What matters to Sandy is that these little clay characters make you smile.

Enjoy our interview with Sandy and please feel free to share her interview on social media and email. Comments are welcome too!

Batik Watercolour Artist Paige Mortensen Irons Out The Past

Batik Watercolour Artist Paige Mortensen Irons Out The Past

©Paige Mortensen Watercolour Batik

As we approached Saskatoon, Saskatchewan little did I know that we were arriving to the place that is known as the “City of Bridges”. Actually, I knew nothing about Saskatoon overall. Gary and I have always just taken Circle Drive that bypassed Saskatoon on our way to northern Saskatchewan for our paddling trips. On this particular trip we were there to meet artists, and one of the side benefits to that is finding out about the place where they live. Saskatoon was established in 1882 as a Temperance colony. Today it is a diverse and vibrant place where people of many different cultures call home. The population is roughly 270,000 and growing at a steady pace on both sides of the South Saskatchewan River. It is the river that made it necessary to span eight bridges within the city. There are new ones being built and old ones being dismantled along with the visual reminder of their history.

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So what do these bridges, vintage doors and daisies have in common? Much more than you would think, starting with Batik watercolour artist Paige Mortensen. When I went looking for artists to interview in Saskatoon, Paige’s work intrigued me immediately. I was familiar with Batik as a wax-resist technique used to die fabric and create stunning patterns as a result, and initially this is what I thought Paige was doing with her artwork. It turns out the idea is similar but the materials used are completely different. Paige uses Ginwashi rice paper instead of fabric, watercolour paints instead of dies, and paraffin wax instead of bees wax or sticky wax. I was really looking forward to finding out more.

©Paige Mortensen

©Paige Mortensen

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Paige’s studio is on the third level of their 4-level split home. There is an extra kitchen which is perfect for helping with the whole process, decent sized windows for natural light and finished and unfinished pieces hanging all around. When we entered Paige’s work space the first thing she showed us was not her art, but rather the stool she sits on to do her work. It used to be her mother’s high chair, and other than the upper part now just a memory, it was lovingly the same. In the corner, carefully embracing some of her art supplies, is an old chest her grandfather had made which remains in it’s original condition. These things were the start of our understanding of what inspires Paige to create the pieces that she does.

Watercolour on Ginwashi Paper 20 x 10"June 2016

Watercolour on Ginwashi Paper 20 x 10″June 2016

As I get older I find myself becoming more and more nostalgic and reaching out for fond memories of my family and friends and our experiences together. And I wonder about other peoples experiences, even those whose faces I have never seen or whose voices I have never heard. As I listened to Paige talk about her work and in particular the subjects of her work I could see we were connected in this way.

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So what do the bridges in Saskatoon, vintage doors and daisies have in common for Paige? They contain sweet memories of her past and stir up curiosity about a past. As the bridges get older and need to be replaced she begins to ask questions about who built them. Melancholy hangs in the air because she knows that one day they will no longer be visual reminders of Saskatoon’s past. Realizing this, Paige is now on an artistic mission to rebuild these relic bridges as a Batik watercolour so they, and the memories that surround them, can be preserved. The vintage doors hold a similar curiosity for Paige. When she and her husband went to Europe the doors, knockers and knobs became the subject of her fascination, and when she got home the subject of a series of paintings. Who lived behind that door? What were they like? Where did they go? As for the daisies, Paige is actually allergic to flowers but her grandmother always appreciated the single Gerber daisy she used to take when she went to visit. She finds beauty in flowers as a subject and as a memory.

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Check out Paige’s interview as she talks more about the Batik watercolour process and gives a little demo. Also, we would appreciate it if you would help us spread the word about Paige Mortensen and her work through social media and email. We thank you in advance for sharing and commenting below.

Art Photographer Judy Wood: From Reality To Reimagining

Art Photographer Judy Wood: From Reality To Reimagining

I love looking at clouds in the sky. The prairie skyline is ideal as a giant blue canvas for displaying big ones, white ones, fluffy ones, dark ones and menacing ones. When I had the chance I would look up and gaze at them for a few minutes to give my eyes a rest from the blue canvas of the computer screen as Gary piloted Arty down the highway toward Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Cloud formations have always fascinated me and without fail my imagination always found a dog, a flower or a face floating effortlessly in the sky until they either melted away into thin air or transformed into something else for my eyes to see. This interaction between me and the clouds is an intimate one; other people may see something completely different or nothing at all. I see some forms of art in this way too.

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When we arrived at art photographer Judy Wood’s house we were invited in to a home where art is created but also where it lives. Her house is filled with pieces that she has collected from many of her peers. It was lovely to look at the variety hanging on the walls and displayed around her living room; all different shapes, sizes, subject matters and media to be enjoyed not only by Judy herself, but also by fleeting visitors like us. She quipped that the walls were shrinking and space for hanging art was now at a premium. It always feels so good standing in a room filled with creativity.

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Judy and her husband had an extra floor added to their house several years ago complete with lots of big windows, sky lights and plenty of floor space. This is Judy’s creative sanctuary and she uses every square inch of it. She has a few different stations set up for mixed media work, her art photography and encaustic pieces she works on when winter sets in. And, it was obvious by all the finished art pieces hanging on display that Judy makes good use of her studio.

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After graduating with a fine arts degree it was stained glass that captured her attention at the time. Today, exploring the world through the lens of a camera and then telling a different story with the help of technology is what she loves to do now. At the time, trying something new was both exciting and challenging. Judy was always interested in photography but hadn’t really pursued it until her husband bought her a digital SLR camera. Her new creative passion came with a steep learning curve, including teaching herself how to operate her camera and finding her way around Photoshop.

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Judy’s photography doesn’t really look like a photo once she is finished with it. She is always excited to spend time in nature taking pictures of things like ravens and crows, horses, trees and iconic prairie buildings like grain elevators and tired, old farm structures. As a potter would refer to clay or a painter to paint, these images are the raw materials for the art that will emerge later. At the end of it all it is really difficult to discern what part is the actual photograph. Like the clouds in the sky, Judy’s artwork allows the viewer to have a one-on-one personal experience with it. We all get to see and feel something different about her pieces. They are interesting to look at and they give my imagination the opportunity to do just that, imagine whatever I want.

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Judy lives and creates in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She shares her life with her husband and their rescued Boxer Rony. Be sure to watch her interview with us and help us spread the word about Judy and her artwork through social media and email. Also, we love to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment for Judy as well. Thank you.

Textile Artist Monika Kinner-Whalen’s Prairie Passions

Textile Artist Monika Kinner-Whalen’s Prairie Passions

There is a popular social media hash tag for those of us that travel with our house on wheels; it’s called #HomeIsWhereYouParkIt. Sure, Gary, Marli and I love driving around Canada setting up our temporary home and then moving on to the next interesting spot, but it’s a transient lifestyle and to me a home has a more permanent ring to it. For all except the first 10 years of my life I have lived surrounded by the prairies in Alberta but I was born in British Columbia. You would think that after 40 years it would be in my blood; a place where my heart would call home. When Gary and I decided to move back to B.C. many people tried to provide some helpful advice, in particular about the closeness of the landscape and the grey skies that can hang around on occasion. At first I was worried about how I might feel about this but after being back in B.C. for 5 years now I know where my heart prefers to be.

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Fibre and textile artist Monika Kinner-Whalen will tell you the same thing about the prairies. I love being surrounded by the enormity of the mountains and the comfy feeling of being in a stand of trees, whereas Monika longs to see that vast expanse and uncluttered space for as far as her eyes can see. She describes her life on the prairies with such passion; the unforgiving thunderstorms, the never ending blue skies, the golden crops, the native grasses and plants and the ability to take a breath that feels like it could go on forever. The prairies are in her heart and she honours this place she loves by expressing it in her art.

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As with many artists we have met, art for Monika started out as something she wanted to do for herself and her family. It very quickly, within 7 years, turned into a full time career. She is largely self taught and has worked hard to teach herself to create beautiful art pieces with threads, fabrics, and yarns. Her dedication to hard work and always perfecting her technique through experimentation and curiosity has lead to recognition from her peers through magazine articles, keynote speaking opportunities, teaching workshops and awards.

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As you probably guessed, Monika’s subject matter consists of all things prairie. She is best known for her landscape thread paintings where she details blades of grass, wild flowers, and crops set on a back drop of one of Saskatchewan’s many vibrant living skies. The thread is her paint and her sewing machine is her brush. What I love about Monika’s thread paintings is that they actually look like a little miniature piece of the prairies with the texture adding another dimension of realism to her pieces.

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Recently, Monika has started relaying the macro view of the prairies in her art. These pieces remind me that although the wide open spaces are what I tend to focus on while cruising down the highway, there is another world of beauty under foot which is frequently missed. Often when we find ourselves face to face with something tiny we can make out details and textures that can’t be seen without having our noses just a few inches away. But Monika chooses to leave out the details in this case. She uses the fatter cousin of thread, yarn, as her paint for these pieces. They become less detailed than her landscapes and more of her impression of what she sees under foot.

As I focus on my computer screen and write about Monika and the art she creates, I think about how easy it is to get caught up in my own little corner of the world. It is artists like Monika that help me see the beauty in life, in my surroundings and even in the mundane and remind me to look up every now and again so I don’t miss the things that take my breath away.

Monika Kinner-Whalen creates and lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan with her husband, three children and one dog child. Check out what else Monika has to say in her interview and help us spread the word about her work through social media and email. Thanks!

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