The Joy of Visiting Places Repeatedly

There’s something to be said about revisiting the same places over the years and painting them too. Last week, we all piled into our Mazda 5 to go camping. This car is getting small for us. I am sitting way in the back because my boys are close to 6 feet now and have long legs. My daughter gets pretty car sick in the back. The back is a good place to read, so I read a lot of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel “Klara and the Sun”(loved it) and “Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words” by Malka Marom. We camped for a couple of nights in Dunvegan. Dunvegan is in Cape Breton and situated between Inverness and Margaree.

In my twenties and newly married I lived in Sydney, Nova Scotia. In the summer, we would go camping in and around Cheticamp and Dunvegan and drive the Cabot Trail. There are so many great hiking spots along the trail and if you drove around long enough you were likely to come across some live fiddle music at a legion. We would sometimes see music at the Doryman in Cheticamp. I started collecting Folk Art in Cape Breton and now have a small collection. The Ceilidh Trail stretches to Margaree and then you hit the Cabot Trail before reaching the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It’s all amazing!

We take our kids to Macleod’s Campground from time to time but last year Cape Breton was where we decided to go for the first time in what felt like forever. It was mostly due to covid and the fact that we could not go to Ottawa to visit my family. We will this year and maybe I will have more to blog about then. So we decided to go camping there again this year. Sometimes it’s hard for me to describe in words how I feel about places and things. I think the Ceilidh Trail is one of those places. It’s possible that it’s just so damn beautiful. It could be the people you meet. It could be the relaxed attitude. It could be the lack of access to wifi. It could be all the folk art. It could be that in my twenties I used to come here because I lived in Sydney and knew it was special and I still feel nostalgia and a connection to the place.

This year I went beach combing for sea glass at Inverness Beach with two of my kids. I have never found beach glass before and it was really meditative and made for a nice walk. We visited our friends Teena, David and their “full of personality” French Bulldog “Reggie” in Margaree. We saw a sneak peek of the art Teena was working on during the pandemic. There will be a show to follow in February 2022 and it’s going to be great and take place at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design in Sydney. So it’s all very exciting.

A sneak peek at the “We’re in this together” painting which is part of Teena’s series for the “Growth and Transitions: Pandemic Perspectives” that she will be part of at The Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design. If you want to see more of Teena’s work you can visit her blog at: https://www.teenamariefancey.com/blog and check out her instagram @teenamariefanceyartist and give her a follow.

Here we are in Margaree last summer at Teena’s summer home with “Reggie” doing his “Middle” trick. He is standing between my legs.

Most of the time in Dunvegan is spent enjoying the wonderful view from Dunvegan beach. It’s gorgeous and the sunsets are breathtaking. The sea was calmer this year it seemed. Years ago we went in August and the water was quite warm. I didn’t make it in but I made a few sketches and one watercolour. The watercolour happened because as we were leaving we noticed we had a flat tire. First thing I grab is my sketchbook and paints. Grabbed a towel to block the sun. I am a red head so I burn in quite a dramatic way. We pulled a bunch of stuff out to keep the car from being over loaded. Dunc put on the spare tire and off he went to get it repaired in Inverness. The funny thing about this story is that we had a flat last year on the way to see Teena in Margaree. The super duper guy at the tire place fixed it for free knowing we were on vacation. We were actually on our way to get him a gift card from the Robin’s Donuts coffee place when we left this time. So while Dunc was off with Eli, Brigid played with a friend she met the night before, Guthrie enjoyed the sun and the view and I painted the view.

So there you have it! Out little two night stay in Cape Breton! Here is my little painting, mostly from plein air with a little bit of my imagination:

Dunvegan Watercolour Sketchbook

In July, we spent three nights at Macleod’s Camping Ground in Dunvegan during our pandemic stay-cation. It was the first time we went camping in 8 years due to a number of factors and it was such a pleasure for us. We had not been to Dunvegan in perhaps 9 or 10 years and it still takes my breath away. We were lucky to have beautiful weather while we camped and the camping site is just near Dunvegan Beach.

I now always take my watercolour set to the beach and this was no exception and this time I brought Brigid’s watercolour set too. It was her very first camping trip and I think she was pretty excited. She does get a little nervous about long car rides  because of car sickness but she did just fine.

I loved being in Cape Breton again. When we were first married, my husband and I lived in Sydney. We lived there for several years and our summers involved a little bit of camping along the Ceilidh Trail and along the Cabot Trail.  Cape Breton is a magical place and this year we brought the kids! We did a little sea kayaking, sunset watching, gallery hopping, beach going, wave swimming, brewery pub crawling (to eat), friend visiting and we stayed in a fancy “inn” too.

I was glad to see when I came home that many people took the stay-cation seriously and traveled within the province. It was clear that the Cape Breton Island needed more travelers about while we were there but according to my social media peeps, many we knew did the same vacation.

Here is my little tribute, in the form of a handmade book of a little slice of The Ceilidh Trail:

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Another Series

It is very common for creative people to get artist’s block. It happens and it is not unusual. I have had it and I am terrified of it. It usually creeps up after a show that I have worked on for months or when I am doubting my direction. I know other creative people get it and I don’t know the answer to this problem. I just think I need to put myself through it and quite possibly it might be part of the creative process.

There are times, during artist’s block, where I continue to make things out of fear of never doing it again. Maybe I make curtains for the house, perhaps I make facemasks for the family (pandemic duties), I bake yummy things (also pandemic duties…haha) and I think I continue to produce sketches and paintings in all varieties. I go through a hyper critical view of myself thinking I do not have what people call having “a style”. I have always been very creative and found it hard to commit to one way of working. In art school, my printmaking looked nothing like my painting because the processes were different. Printmaking was a place to explore and painting was a place to learn a skill for me, I guess. Over time, I think I explored more in my  painting practice. But the flip flopping led to mild criticism from one instructor suggesting it would seem like I had a mental health issue. Luckily and surprisingly, I took it lightly as I did with most “art crits”. I am not convinced that someone who is in their early twenties really knows what they want, but I digress.

I have spend the last few years in this limbo state. I did manage to get through a group show and paint quite a few series of things for practice and for fun. It wasn’t a complete dry spell but it was all over the place and I wouldn’t change a thing.

I am happy to announce that I have finally started a series of work I am totally and passionately excited about. I am working on large (for me) mystical landscapes in acrylic paint that celebrate the movement, colour and pattern where I have one foot in reality and one foot in my imagination. This would not have happened if I didn’t decide one day several years ago to take my watercolour set to the beach, and paint in plein air. It would not have happened if I didn’t make my big abstract for fun in January (I am still playing on it) it will go in my house someday. I don’t think it would have happened without the pandemic which gave me time to work though all this stuff in my head. I managed to produce quite a few beach paintings when people were so lonesome for the beautiful Nova Scotia beaches so I know I love it. It might not have happened if I didn’t do The Sketchbook Project thanks to my friend Leah who gave me it to do because her son did not want to do it.

Everything you make leads you somewhere so just go with it.

The Sketchbook Project-Stuck Inside

sketchbook home

This week I bound my little book for “The Sketchbook Project”. Here are the little watercolours I made in the right order of my little handbound book. It will be sent today and will stay in “Brooklyn Art Library” in NY with many other little books to be viewed by the public. It was very fun and I am pleased that I was given this project by my really nice friend, Leah. I hope one day to go and check it out myself.

Back to My Acrylic Paint

Inverness Acrylic

Inverness Beach

 

I have a studio in my basement but for a variety of reasons I decided to take a break from using it during the covid-19 pandemic. It wasn’t a conscious decision but rather one that developed out the desire to work in watercolour and gouache at the kitchen table surrounded by my family. The studio also became a good place for my husband to work from when he had meetings. The little watercolours were a great way to add structure to my day before we had to homeschool the kids online. I continued to paint and bake during the isolation finding myself working on several “Art” projects during that time.

I used my watercolours and gouache to paint interiors, dog portraits, beach landscapes and to participate in the “Sketchbook Project”.  It has been very satisfying to work on all of these things. Now, because of all the work I have done, I have so many directions I can take. I have plenty of reference material and I understand what works well and what I can improve in my work. There is something to be said about working a little each day.

The above landscape is my first acrylic painting in a long time. I really enjoyed working on the texture of the canvas and hope to create quite a few more landscapes like this one. I love the immediacy and the looseness of using the watercolours but there is something about working from an image I painted in watercolour and making an acrylic out of it. The information is all there and ready for me to use and adjust it look how I want. It permits me to be very creative with colour and work larger with a bit of a plan.

To all you folks who want to paint but aren’t sure where to start or have yet to get into a pattern of working, I highly recommend not to worry about it at all. Just get out your sketchbooks, watercolours or whatever else floats your boat and work small. Then you will have an idea of what you wish to do. Just do something small everyday for now!