Thursday, 29 December 2011


I stopped into the Park Visitor's Centre and took a look at the display of animals which can be found in the Gatineau hills.  I was thinking of woodpeckers and bluejays, but they didn't have any.  Instead I sketched this Kingfisher.  I haven't seen many kingfishers, but when I have there is no mistaking their distinctive profile.

True confession: this one was stuffed - that's how I got so close.

Keogan Cabin

The largest cabin in the Park is Keogan.  Its the destination of choice to night ski in for dinner as you're sure to get a table. I arrived just before noon today and started to sketch.  Within minutes there were about twenty people in for lunch.

Everyone on the trail today had a big powered skiers.

Shilly Shally Cabin

Today was a real Ottawa winter day...minus 20 C, deep blue sky and sunny.  The snow was squeeky and I needed mittens over my gloves.  I wasn't the first past Shilly Shally cabin, but I did get to light the fire.

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 :

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Huron Cabin

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.

Clan Crest Poles

These are  Family Crest poles which represent the clans of the owners.  The one on the left is a White Squirrel, and on the right is a Kwaxsuu Pole form around 1870 which signifies a Chief of Wolf Clan lineage.

Nuu-chah-nulth Pole

This totem pole is one my favourites as it is more colourful that the older ones in the Museum and departs somewhat from the iconography of the other poles in the Great Hall.

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

Great Hall - Canadian Museum of Civilization

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

Christmas Pageant

Children preforming a Christmas pageant never gets old for me.  This morning we had the privilege of having some of the youngest members of our congregation personify Hope, Peace Love and Joy, sneakers under robes and tinfoil halos included.  Wonderful.

May you be open to all the blessings of the season.

Different Kind of Totems

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.

Tahltan-Tlingit Mural

Dempsey Bob is a Tahltan-Tlingit carver from northern British Colunbia.  This carving is similar to the work of Haida artists Bill Reid and Jim Hart in that is assembles traditional symbolism in a non-traditional composition.  The workmanship and finishing are superb.

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."

Frontal Pole

Last weekend in Montreal it was cold and rainy so I stopped into the McCord Museum of history for a few minutes to sketch indoors. This frontal pole is beautifully integrated into an open stair well flanking the galleries.  It is about 10 m tall and is actually straight (my sketch book wouldn't lie flat for the photo).

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

Fifth Avenue Doors

It has been slow in coming this year, but its finally below zero.  I'm having to find locations where I can draw from the car, or just do quick studies while standing, before my hand ceases up. I actually had to finish blacking in the windows indoors as it was cold enough that the ink in my my pen was not flowing.  Maybe its time to switch to pencil!

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

Bytown Theatre, Ottawa

After sketching the Snowdon Theatre yesterday in Montreal,  it occurred to me that theatre marquees have sort of faded away in most cities.  One survivor here in Ottawa is a repertory movie house downtown near the By Ward market district.

Snowdon Theatre, Montreal

I was in Montreal yesterday and finally made it back to see the Snowdon Theatre.  I have been curious about it for years as you catch a glimpse of the sign from way down deep in the Decarie trench while driving into the city.  Its is no longer a cinema, but thankfully the wonderful art deco sign and facade have not been compromised.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Three Watchmen

This sculpture by Haida artist Bill Hart was installed a few weeks ago, near the National Gallery of Canada, here in Ottawa.  Its is 10m tall but seems smaller out in the landscape. It is immaculately crafted and projects a calm and reassuring presence. Chief Hart was compensated for the work, but nonetheless I regard it as a gift and am proud and pleased that the watchmen are now here guarding Ottawa and Canada.

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.

Mutchmore School

I've been thinking recently about how schools, churches and municipal buildings have declined as important and notable architecture over the last 60 years.  In older neighbourhoods these buildings are proud symbols of community, now we seem to just build facilities.