Thursday, 29 December 2011
Everyone on the trail today had a big smile...solar powered skiers.
This is easily the smallest cabin in the park, but the best for birds. I saw a downey woodpecker on the way in and there were two flickers at the feeder. The trail in tunnels through a hemlock grove which is one of my favourite places on the planet.
A sketch of the inerior and the story of this cabin's name : http://johnssketchjournal.blogspot.com/2012/02/chilly-chalet.html
Wednesday, 28 December 2011
We finally got enough snow to ski, so I headed up to Gatineau Park for a short ski. There are miles of nordic trails and several cabins which serve as destinations and allow skiers to take a break and dry off. I was first into Huron this morning and lit the fire in the wood stove.
There were the usual black capped chickadees and a flicker at the bird feeder, but then a flock of 6 or 8 bluejays arrived and pushed the smaller birds out of the way. Its unusual to see more than a pair bluejays together - they are such bickersome birds that its hard to imagine them getting along. To top things off, I came across a white-tailed deer on the way out.
The pole was a gift from the Hesquaiht people and the Royal British Columbia Museum in 1989 for the opening of the Canadian Museum of Civilization. It was carved Tim Paul with assistance from Kevin Cranmer.
"The four main figures on this pole are from the history of the Hesquiaht people. The figure at the top is an ancestral chief, wearing an elaborate headdress and posed in a dancing position. Beneath him is Thunderbird and between his wings is a mythic hunter known for his ability to catch whales, sea otters and seals. The final figure represents the whale canoe that carried the hunter's rival out to sea."
Monday, 26 December 2011
Winter in Canada is not conducive to drawing outdoors, so I headed to the Canadian Museum of Civilization. There is so much there to draw that I didn't even get past the Great Hall, which is a display of mid 19th century native longhouses and totem poles.
Sunday, 18 December 2011
May you be open to all the blessings of the season.
I'm a big fan of the City of Ottawa's public art collections and program. One of my favourite pieces is by Jim Thomson. These three columns stand in the main corridor of City Hall. and I enjoy them every time I pass by. They are made of ceramic and stand about 2.4 m tall.
If you have looked at this blog you will see I am very interested in symbolism. The mythology and iconography of Haida carving resonates with me even though I live 3000 miles form the left coast. I think of Thomson's work as totems and it has inspired some ideas about totems I would like to craft.
The City narrative states:
On Top of the World is a three-part ceramic sculpture, designed to generate philosophical optimism about the viewer's life and existence. The turtle, dog, and the spiral interact to form a reassuring and celebratory environment. The clever and attentive dog symbolizes myth and paradoxes, while the turtle, carrying its home wherever it goes, represents history and experience. Both figures gaze towards the third vase, a spiral of pure energy, representing a timeless and all-embracing world.
Don't expect such high falutin text about any totems I might make.
This 'Red Cedar Carving' stands about 3m high and is about 2.4 m wide. One side is unpainted with the exception of the bentwood box while the other side reverses this with the figures painted in the traditional red and black and the box in a natural finish. The theme of the panel is trade and sharing of ides and goods.
This was donated to the National Arts Centre here in Ottawa by Ridley Terminals Company who have enjoyed it for many years in their offices. I'm sure they miss it.
An explanation of the work was on display;
"Northwest Indian people are divided into four main groups symbolized by the following crests: the Killer whale on the top of the carving; the Wolf on bentwood box; the Raven with the long straight beak on the left; the Eagle with the curved beak on the right. The frog is part of the Raven crest and is shown in front of the Raven.
The Raven is holding the daylight. When raven brought the light he also gave us knowledge. This figure in front of the Eagle is female and the figure between the Raven and Eagle is a male. They both represent the people. The four main crests together represent culture, unity and completeness. The bentwood box symbolizes trade because Northwest coast people used boxes for carrying trade goods.The rainbow, symbol of exchanges, ideas or goods."
This totem pole distinguished the front of a Haida long house in the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia. It was carved in the mid 1900s and seems never to have been painted. The symbolism of the creatures represented status of the family. Bears seemed to play a big part in that story. It must have taken a lot of time to carve, which speaks to it's cultural importance and the standard of life living beside the sea, that could support such craftsmen.
Wednesday, 14 December 2011
I often pass by these elegant doors to walk-up apartments in my neighbourhood and finally took a few minutes to stop and sketch them. I made a mistake in trying to black in the transom window of the Grenville apartment as the building name is in a flowing 30's style script...should have added it larger. In fact the detailing of several of the elements would warrant vignettes.
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Tuesday, 6 December 2011
As part of his training, Chief Hart worked with Bill Reid, another eminent Haida artist and like Reid has moved his work beyond traditional forms and motifs, while strongly integrating Haida cultural forms and legends. It is cast bronze which is not a traditional Haida material, but will be extremely durable and develop a rich patina get as it weathers.
Tuesday, 8 November 2011
That brings me back to sleepy little Ottawa. On the way home from church on Sunday I rode my bike to Confederation Park. We have a little copy-cat encampment here too. Lottsa tents, not so many people. If the goals of the New York or London encampments are unclear, the realities of the injustice and inequity in those countries certainly are. Here in Canada we, with the shameful exception of our native people, are enjoying the top 2% quality of life from a global and population perspective. I'm not an apologist for our governing parties, but I don't feel our system has let us down.
This all brings me to the sketch. I suppose you have to live here to understand how incongruous tents are in an Ottawa park. On Sunday all was quiet. The campers had organized a free food kitchen and the park was very orderly and tidy - how Canadian. That cynicism aside, I think we are in the very early days of this movement and I believe in time, issues will be refined, leaders emerge and goals clarified. My suspicion is that this will take years to mature. Wish I could drop in on Wall Street more often, but the proxy will have to be Confederation Park. The irony of the drawing is the eagle sculpture in the background, This is the Aboriginal War Vetran's monument. They are the ones who should be camping here. Instead they organized themselves to raise money and commision a sculpture commemorating their contribution to our nation.
Sunday, 6 November 2011
In 1984, shortly after I moved to Ottawa, the covered bridge over the Gatineau River burned down. The province replaced it with an eminently more practical and functional high speed steel and concrete structure, but the community still felt an emotional loss. There was nothing else to be done but raise the funds, form work parties and replace the 1915 wooden structure. Old log boom logs were sawed for structural bridge timber and 'town lattice' walls were constructed. The roof and pine sides followed to keep structure dry and lengthen the life of the bridge. The new, old bridge, was opened in1997.
Sunday, 23 October 2011
The building may be old but the congregation and their worship are very contemporary and informal. I was a tad worried that drawing during the service might be seen as irrespectful or as 'cultural tourism'. I should have known better as Reverend Mark is not about authority or piety. That's him in the centre, not behind a pulpit, playing his guitar and singing.
He's an interesting guy, who I have known for many years. He doesn't seem to use his family name at Church, but I first knew him as Mark Whittall. He left a very successful career in business just a few years ago and studied to become an Anglican Priest. He has recently taken on this urban church, located downtown and seems to guiding and enabling, rather than directing it's growing congregation. Apart from the physical set-up and wonderful mix of music, there is a broad cross-section of ages and backgrounds - which is markedly different than many older churches. Sunday school is held at the back of the sanctuary because the basement is reserved for a 7 day week drop-in centre, Centre 454, which has helps people in crisis and transition get back on their feet.
Thursday, 20 October 2011
I bought a nice new small moleskine watercolour sketchbook and I'm working on just starting into it with ink - no pencil blocking. I'm also drawing while standing which makes it harder to control the pen. In short, trying to loosen up.
The pick-up belongs to my neighbour, Bill. Its a fire engine red 1952 Chevrolet and to look at it's imacualte. The working parts are however apparently feeling their age, as there are some repairs to be done. Bill's son, John, was under the truck and the two of them were engaged in an arcane discussion about whether the ' back end needs to be dropped out' or 'it might be easier to pull the engine'. While, I didn't totally follow the conversation, I could relate to the situation of hobbies seeming to be more vexatious than recreational, not to mention the condition of some of my own aging parts.
The ostensible destination of our walk was the Farmer's market at Lansdowne Park. This is a Sunday morning event which has really flourished over the past few years. It is a wonderful fit of the 100 mile diet, whole food and good eats in a neighbourhood that values those things, and more to the point, can afford it. We bought several bunches of crispy heritage varieties of Apples and have enjoyed each and every one this week. More expensive than the grocery store, but on several levels, it seems like good value.
Sunday, 16 October 2011
It was fun to meet another USK member, Greg Manley, and share observations. Greg is an architect and painter. His work can be seen at www.manleyart.com . We met at the War Museum and even though the skies were threatening walked over to the old mill by Victoria Island. There are some old dams and generating stations, even vestiges of the the logging industry such as log flumes in this area.
A succesful day - did some sketching, didn't get rained on and made a friend.
Wednesday, 12 October 2011
The Seaport Museum is closed temporarily but luckily Sal Polisi, master carver was in the workshop and I managed a quick look around.
I did not have much time to chat with Sal, but we did exchange cards and I would love to learn more about his work and role with the museum. http://salpolisiwoodcarver.com/
What a frustration to not be able to crawl all over those ships and sketch all day long. I'm thinking that I would like to make another trip for that sole purpose. I am wondering if I could talk myself into a short 'artist in residence' stay, or undertake some focused project.
Wednesday, 5 October 2011
We rented bikes and visited a few of the local companies, including lunch at Jackson-Triggs, in their impressive new building.
Our next stop was Port Dalhousie where the Welland Canal links through to Lake Erie. There was an original, narrower canal which is filled in and abandoned in places. The port has a very well protected harbour and a lively entertainment district (code for bars).
Sunday, 25 September 2011
Today I just had to get out on the water, so me and my faithful dog, "Sailor', took the boat up the river by ourselves. And what a glorious day it was to sail. These late summer days are so precious, as fall and winter are mere weeks away.
There was a little motor sailor, "Half Moon", at anchor at a small bay which is a good overnight stop. I talked to the owners a couple of years ago. They have been all over the place with this boat as it is easily trailerable.. They have taken it to Georgian Bay, Lake Champlain and the Brador Lakes. A few of my friends are purists and degrade the craft, but the owners have had way too much fun and too many adventures to care.
Last night I watched 'Master and Commander', as I do at least once a year. ...Today was nothing like that.
No hurricanes, no cannons, no amputations, no unnamed speicies.
On the way home we had a nice following breeze. It was strong enough and a dead run, so I didn't bother with the main'sl. It was a little hairy drawing while steering with my feet, but who cares about a straight course anyway.
Sunday, 18 September 2011
I have had opportunity to work with Tim Desclouds recently as he won the commission for the art along the reconstructed Bank Street in the Glebe neighbourhood, which is one of my projects. Tim is a very down to earth guy. He is a teacher and coach and has no airs or pretentiousness about his art. It was interesting to hear him talk about the Bank street pieces to some of the construction workers last week. He just explained it in straightforward terms that they readily accepted.
Back to the flying cows. There is a poem from the 1851 Old Farmer's Almanac, on the plaque at the base, which provides insight into the sculpture.
The cows fly home on Sunday
Wind from the east is bad for man and beast
Wind from the south is too hot for both
Wind from the north is of very little worth
Wind from the west is the softest and best
It isn't really called the Five Sisters, I just think of it that way, as each unit is different yet conforms to similar proportions, details and materials so as to be a unified family. If I taught architecture, I would walk the first year class to this building, have them draw it, then reinterpret it in contemporary materials and proportions.
Given the era of the construction, I think each unit would have names like, 'Faith', 'Charity' and' Hope.' I wouldn't be too enthusiastic to have 'Chastity' or 'Temperance', but would pay extra to live in 'Grace'.
Wednesday, 14 September 2011
This was built by Newline, who seem to really know thier business.
So this isn't the park - it's the skate plaza in one corner of the park. I think I mentioned in the Wild in the Praks post that skate parks are bowls and that the trend is towards plazas, which provide more urban types of elements.
My skateboarding consultant, Tommy, gave it 2 thumbs up. Very smooth concrete, nicely proportioned rails, hubbas, steps, a neat bump in the middle and most important, nice 'flow'.
Tommy's vid can be seen here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCqIq_2_cCk
That's Tommy in the foreground, but tragically, I missed the turquoise colour on the brim of his hat. Imagine my guilt. Dispite that grave ommission the conclusion is: "it's gnar."
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
The top figure is the Watch Man who will look over the property. You can see his hat in the sketch. Next is Raven who is a mischievous friend to man, followed by Hawk, in recognition of the frequent presence of hawks soaring over the farm. Beaver with chewing stick at the bottom recognizes the beavers who have at times lived on on the property and the relationship between man and other creatures.
Friday, 9 September 2011
Monday, 5 September 2011
I have had a hankering to get up to Moorside, the Mackenzie King Estate in the Gatineau Hills for some time. On the way into the property I met John Shaw-Rimington of The Dry Stone Wall Association of Canada who was doing a dry laid stone wall demonstration. Well, in fairness, his assistant Shim, was busy, while John chatted to interested visitors. In addition to shattering the stereotype of what a mason looks like, Shim also demonstrated that it is possible to build very regular walls with rounded field stone.
John has a blog about dry stone masonry entitled Thinking With My Hands".
People stop by all day long and John seems to be a constant presence, even on weekends and evenings. It is a popular destination for photographers, although you'd be better off to just buy the amazing photos John sells right there on site.
John is very friendly and chats and jokes with people between moments of fiddling and adjusting small rocks and hefting large ones to start new sculptures.
Friday, 2 September 2011
I started Sketch Journal 3 months ago as a personal project to practice drawing and learn a little about scanning, posting and the basic mechanics of the Internet. It has been a really fun experience, complete with some personal growth and surprises. As a means to benchmark this milestone, I thought I'd summarize the experience.
Practicing drawing was the fundamental goal. I set a goal of doing 3 drawings a week and have been able to do that...at least if averaged. That was good, but the downside is that I haven't I been discriminating enough about what I posted.
When I review,my sketchbooks from the last three months the observation that emerges is 'the faster, the better'. When I have time and block out in pencil, then ink over the drawing gets really stiff and not necessarily more accurate. I'm thinking pencil structure should be reserved for straightening out my wandering vanishing points and overall composition, and let the detail be a looser and implied.
I'm new to painting and loving how a little colour can pull together a vague line drawing. The discipline here is to figure out when to stop. I have been observing how my Urbansketcher mentors often use only a few colours and spill colours together. That is a segue to what I have picked up from mining the USK site.
I've been studying not just the 'corresponandants' but also the 'members' work through the Urbansketchers site. Like any journey there has been an evolution in what appeals in terms of styles to emulate. My 'hero' at this point is Luis Ruiz, who is an an architect from Malaga, Spain who draws prolifically with a nice balance of perspective accuracy and implied detail. He is sparing and strategic in his use of colour. In the words of a an architect colleague, Alex Rankin, he 'draws like an angel'. http://www.urbansketchers.org/search/label/Luis%20Ruiz.
Next up is, Mark Selander, a member from the Seattle USK group, who like me, is fascinated by heavy equipment but has taken it to a whole other sophisticated and delightfully wacky level in his day job as an illustrator. http://rocketsandrabbits.wordpress.com/.
Just as I'm struggling with my propensity to stiffen and overwork my drawings I'm trying to mediate my attraction to the way architects have been taught to draw with the expressiveness of those who have come from art school backgrounds. Here is a list of the people I am currently studying.
Marc Taro Holmes, a game character development artist from Montreal.
Rob Carey, an American teaching in Germany. http://kunst-by-rob.blogspot.com/
Liz Steele, a very well travelled Australian, tea loving architect. http://www.lizsteel.com/
Omar Jamillo, who is originally from Ecuador and studied in Germany. I'm not clear on whether he is an architect or landscape architect (like me) , but it doesn't really matter as he seems to be forging ahead as an artist. He spent last summer in St. John's Newfoundland and is now on a one month gig sketching the Berlin Ballet company on tour - how cool is that? http://www.flickr.com/photos/omarpaint
There are a bunch of other people I watch, but the shift in interest has been towards a few people who draw people more than things. Top amongst these are Thomas Thorspecken, who is a former Disney animator who now draws and writes about cultural events in Florida. Not so much for the stories as the drawings. http://www.analogartistdigitalworld.com/
I couldn't go to the second USK symposium which was held in Lisbon this summer. I'm really hoping to get to the 2012 event and waiting with great anticipation for the announcement of next years venue.
Just recently the USK site posted its various chapter sites. Seattle would be a hands down first choice to meet several of those sketchers, and to visit my stepbrother Mark Glyde. ( check out his blog, wish I could write like him- http://glydeartventure.posterous.com/ ) I've been thinking that next time I plan a trip I'll investigate if there is a sketchcrawl planned in that city, or even contact someone to go drawing with. Which brings me to Ottawa. I am member no. 4 here and have approached the other 3 about meeting up, but not yet organized a date. That is on my 'to do' list.
This was the surprise. I've had fun entering this international virtual society, but didn't expect to have so much fun with the techie side . I have been watching my visitation statistics with great interest. Not sure why I need an audience, so much as astounded with the idea that someone I've never met would check out the site. I have been hesitant to share the address with work colleagues and friends but have noticed that my passive posting of the URL on my limited Facebook page has attracted many visits. That being said, friends are not necessarily as interested as other sketchers. The hits have accelerated this last month, but the real test will be repeat visitors. I am trying to figure out how to install a more sophisticated analytics application to get a sense of that. It may be distracting from my simple intent of just drawing, but it has been fun nonetheless. My experience with blogging has prompted, Matt Mills, a colleague at my office to start a photography site. With some luck he'll help me figure out the tech piece. He's off to a good start ...sort of modelled on the USK theme of telling a little story with each image. Check it out - sent him a comment. http://www.matthewmills.ca/
More drawing. Ink without pencil (I think of this a drawing without a net).
More People. I'm planning to participate in a life drawing group this fall. I did life drawing for a couple of years while in University and recon that is the best way to concur my fear of drawing people.
The challenge here is flow. Trying too hard seems to cramp up my style. I'm aiming for expressiveness over accuracy over the next 3 months.
Tuesday, 30 August 2011
Monday, 29 August 2011
Through the summer friends often stay over for dinner or even all night and once its dark this is a typical scene at the computer station.