I am thrilled to announce an upcoming joint exhibition at Xchanges Gallery, opening April 7!
I have the great pleasure to be exhibiting work with my husband about a topic we often find ourselves drawn to—mountains and the ocean.
Throughout our relationship, we have had the unique opportunity to live and work in the mountains of Jasper National Park and on a sailing vessel in the Mediterranean Sea. These experiences of inhabiting immense and often daunting natural spaces have given us a deep respect for the power of nature. Our conversations about these experiences have led us to create SURFACE TENSION.
We have been working on a completely new series of work for this show, including: oil paintings, experimental drawings, photography and installation.
Opening Reception Friday April 7 from 7-9pm The artists will be in attendance and will give a brief introduction to the work around 7:30pm
Some of you may remember an artwork I made during the first half of 2020 called Terrēnus Paterna. I created this artbook about my ancestors and their geographical journey to Canada. Many of these lives I never knew, and yet were essential to my being here today. This rotating series of gouache paintings tell silent stories about celebrations and joy, struggles and deep personal losses. A suitcase of loose family photographs provided the majority of my source material for this project. In this jumble of photos were glimpses into the near and distant past. Cat eye glasses, vintage cars, wedding dresses, 1980’s perms, stiff corsets and funerals. These photos not only span time but also geography—from the Russian steppe to the Canadian prairies, the west coast and family holidays. While working on these paintings, I spent hours gazing into these eyes that stared back at me. Looking for connections or clues into their lives (and mine). Some faces were familiar to me… my parents, both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, others were not. Some photos had hand-written notes scrawled on the back with information like names, dates and places. Did the writers know these photos would one day end up in the hands of a future generation that would no longer recognize them? During this project my grandmother Clara, who was living with my parents, passed away at 99-and-a-half-years-old. She is dearly missed. During the same time, I was laid off work and the world slipped into the uncertainty of a pandemic. I poured myself into this project because there wasn’t much else to do. It brought me on a difficult journey, but also got me through a hard time. This artwork was destined for an exhibition in Russia—the birth place of my grandfather and the place where my family’s recent history began as fleeing refugees.
This exhibition was titled Biblio Nordica (book of the north). The original concept was twofold: it focused on the connections between countries that share similar geographical latitudes and asked artists to consider creating art within the open-ended framework of a “book”. I was surprised to be included in this show as I had not previously considered myself from the north as I live in one of the most southerly locations in Canada. However, I am from the north in a global context. The other artists in the exhibition were from Russia, Finland and Norway. When I was contemplating how to begin this project, I kept thinking about my ancestors’ connection to the north. Since leaving their native country about 400 years ago, and settling across three continents, my ancestors called many places home—but all between the 50th and 60th latitude lines. Books are among the most prized and treasured objects in history. Books have been stolen, burned and smuggled. They can be illuminated in gold, embossed, stamped, chiseled, typed or written by hand. But they can also be humble, everyday objects that tell personal stories and communicate ideas. I quickly came to realize that a “book” can be quite an open expression. Just think of the variety of forms: unfurling scrolls, loose tablets, bound into blocks and so on. The purpose of a book is to communicate, and that doesn’t have to be restricted to what is on the pages. Meaning can be incorporated into the form itself. I created my “book” so that when it is viewed from above, it’s form references a diagram of the northern part of the globe.
It soon came time to mail my artwork to Russia. However, I wasn’t able to mail it to the gallery because many countries were not accepting mail at this time. No to be deterred, I ever so carefully packaged these bound paintings and brought them to the post office. This is where my part of the story ends and Terrēnus Paterna begins a story of its own.
After traveling 7,723 km, my dear friend in the UK received my package, re-labeled it and mailed it on to Russia (Russia was only receiving post from a few countries, the UK being one of these locations). A further 3,165 km and my package arrived safely in Petrozavodsk, Russia.
The Biblio Nordica exhibition comprised a collection of work from twelve international artists from Russia, Canada, Finland and Norway. The exhibition was first held in Russia, and then traveled to Finland and Norway. After the shows finished, the artworks were mailed back to the contributing artists. In January of last year, I was excited to receive Terrēnus Paterna in the mail. I had it for a week when I received word that there was an opportunity for Biblio Nordica to be exhibited in St Petersburg, Russia. I re-packaged the artwork, went back to the post office and mailed it directly to the curator (skipping the UK step this time). My package again arrived safely and had now accumulated 32,664 km.
Unfortunately that exhibition never happened, and as the postal service was again suspended, the artworks are still in Russia.
As I sit here writing, it’s hard to distill my thoughts as I process the life Terrēnus Paterna has lived since its creation. I won’t lie, I was pretty nervous about mailing this artwork into an uncertain world, hoping it would successfully arrive at its destination. I spent an entire day packaging it. I even took a video explaining how to unpack it once it arrived and had a diagram included the box about how to pack it up again. I also researched the size specifications of official Russian parcel boxes so that it would be able to be sent back home.
Last month I received an unexpected email from the curator. A gallery in Moscow would like to show the Biblio Nordica exhibition. A thread of emails followed from the international artists involved, sending their enthusiastic agreements for the continuation of this show. It is encouraging to see the desire people have for art to be shared. Whether you are a creator or a viewer, art plays an important role in life. It helps us process thoughts, feelings, relationships and the world around us. Amazingly, a single artwork can speak to many people differently, reaching them where they are art. As I reflect on this opportunity to exhibit in the capital city of my ancestors’ homeland, I find myself thinking about a grainy photograph of my grandfather as a young boy, with his face a little blurred and over exposed. I painted that image of him for Terrēnus Paterna. I wonder what he would think of it. If it would speak to him differently than it did to me. It is my hope that this exhibition will encourage the people that go to see it. That they will find their own personal connections with the work.
I don’t come from famous or noble blood, but from a humble background of hardworking, determined folk. Many of them worked with their hands as farmers, craftsmen, carpenters and builders. The stories of my ancestors are universal: searching the globe for a place to raise their family and call home. Terrēnus Paterna‘s story is not over yet. It has already traveled far more than the people on its pages. Over the last few years I’ve learned something new about art—just because an artwork is completed, doesn’t mean its story has to be.
Biblio Nordica: Moscow
The following photos were taken a few days ago during the installation of Biblio Nordica in the MMOMA (Moscow Museum of Modern Art). This exhibition opened yesterday.
It is with great appreciation that I would like to acknowledge the vision and dedication of the curator of Biblio Nordica exhibition, Varvara, and the Russian artists whose efforts coordinated this forth exhibition.
The creative muse is an interesting topic… The idea of the Romantic Artist is often clouded with mystery and a sense of the “divine”. As though they were taken hostage by some overwhelmingly brilliant creative epiphany which has lead them to create work that they themselves were powerless but to produce. Sadly, this belief separates the “artistic” (AKA elevated-beings-which-act-as-conduit-for-inspired-creative-genius) from the “non-artistic” (AKA all-the-rest-of-us). I am talking about this in exaggerated terms, but I do think deep down sometimes we feel this way when we are facing a creative block.
Artists sometimes struggle to find that next idea to create work about, but this doesn’t diminish their value of being an artist—it strengthens it. Learning not to give up, but to push through creative blocks is important (as with any other creative field, like music or writing). A wise woman once told me that when she doesn’t know what to do, she spends time in here studio space: tidying, organizing supplies, etc. Consistently being in that creatively designated space is important. She often found while working on random tasks that ideas would start coming. This is such good advice (trust me, I’ve tried it myself)!
Over time I have discovered that when I am in a creative block and finding it hard to think of ideas, it often is because I have been focusing on “outputting” but not “inputting” and I need to spend some time feeding my curiosity. I find ideas in a few different ways, but the main way is through listening to podcasts and reading books about subjects I am interested in (water, whales, marine life, etc.). Recently, I have been listening and re-listening to episodes from the Whale Tales podcast. I also enjoy following marine researches and conservation groups online because they often share things that I did not previously know. One group that I follow, the Marine Research and Education Society, just announced they are offering a free webinar on March 11th called Collaborating to Protect Ocean Giants about humpback whales and their diet, boater behaviour and studying scarring on whales through ariel photographs. I have have been reading a couple books: The Hidden Messages in Water by Japanese artist Masaru Emoto and How to Read Water, Clues and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea by Tristan Gooley.
Creativity often comes from a sense of curiosity, where we are willing and open to be surprised by discovery. The next time you are at an art opening or open studio, try asking the artist how they find ideas. If you do this, you will likely end up in a wonderful conversation and you may even find your curiosity being fed.
Speaking of curiosity, as I mentioned in my last post, I have been creating a weekend summer workshop called Drawing with Science. Well, here is the inside scoop. Basically, this workshop is indulgently and unabashedly focused on what gets me fired up with creative ideas: the meeting of art and science. Together we will be creating art about nature and scientific concepts, like “the specimen”, and one project even includes using microscopes to make drawings. Lately I have had so much fun researching historic and contemporary artists that make art about science and have had my head filled with inspiration that I can’t wait to share. MISSA workshops are an art retreat and this year they will be running at the lovely facilities of the Shawnigan Lake School and all workshops include lunch (there is even accommodation available if you want to sleep over and have breakfast and dinner there too). My desire for this workshop is to facilitate a safe, supportive environment where we can learn about the connecting of art and science, expand and sharpen our drawing skills, and have fun experimenting.
Maybe you have never taken an art workshop before, or you are a practicing artist or maybe you are a scientist or researcher—you are welcome in this class! If you have any questions, feel free to send me a message.
General Registration opens at noon on February 14th —Happy Valentines Day!
For more information about the Drawing with Science workshop click here
I will be instructing a weekend workshop with MISSA (Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts) in July 2023. Join me for a weekend of ‘Drawing with Science’! Workshops take place at the beautiful location and facilities of Shawnigan Lake School.
MISSA has a reputation of offering transformational learning experiences through instruction by a local, national and international faculty of practicing artists. Specialized courses are designed for professional artists, teachers and adult students. Participants have options to stay on or off campus. Course fees include daytime meals. Breakfast and dinner are included with accommodation cost. You can read more about MISSA on their website.
MISSA 2023 Summer Program Registration Dates
January 24 @ 12 noon PST: Full 2023 Summer Program Launch (viewing only)
I hope this post finds you all well and staying cozy as this cold, wet weather starts to settle in (isn’t it glorious!). Over the last few months, I have been quietly working away towards some upcoming events that are now just around the corner. This month I will be participating in four in person markets, one digital market and have works in two exhibitions here in Victoria. I have compiled all the info below for you in case you would like to drop by any of them. Events like exhibitions and markets are a wonderful way to stay connected with our community, help support our local economy and enrich our own lives—because I guarantee that you will make discoveries (whether its meeting someone new that you connect with, seeing art that surprises you or makes you see something from a new perspective, or experiencing the amazing diversity of ingenuity that lives within our city). Sometimes I find it hard to leave my apartment when it is this time of the year, but I always feel so filled up after I go to events! This is why I enjoy participating in markets—it helps build my sense of connectiveness in my community.
I hope you will enjoy scrolling down through my list of events below. =)
Assemblage at arc.hive Artist Run Centre About: A group exhibition featuring the diverse practices of arc.hive studio members and board members (I am honoured to be participating as a member of the board). Artists: Alison Bigg, Lisa-Scarlett Cruji, Laura Feeleus, Kyra Kelpin, Chantal Solomon, Erica Mattson, Regan Rassmussen, Jenn Wilson, Rachel Vanderzwet, Natasha van Netten and Sandy Voldeng When: The gallery is open 12-4 Saturday and Sundays from November 5 to December 11, 2022 Where: 2516 Bridge Street, Victoria BC Opening Reception: Saturday November 6 from 5:30-7:30pm Web Link:Click here.
Winter Small Works Show & Sale at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria About: Featuring small and medium sized original works in a range of styles by local artists. When: Exhibition will be on display in the Massey Sales Gallery from November 17, 2022 – January 21, 2023 Where: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is located at 1040 Moss Street, Victoria BC – exhibition in the Massey Sales Gallery room Opening Reception: November 17th from 5-8pm Web Link:Click here.
Fall Fling Market When: Sunday November 6th from 10am-6pm Location: The Bay Centre, 1150 Douglas Street, Victoria, BC Admission: Free Facebook: Victoria Market Collective
Toronto Stationary Show When: November 13 – November 26, 2022 Location: Online! Admission: Free Website: Toronto Stationary Show
Nomad Holiday Market When: Friday November 11 from 4-8pm, Saturday November 12 from 10am-6pm, Sunday November 13 from 11am to 4pm Location: The Wellness Centre, 1100 Admiral Road, Esquimalt, BC Admission: $5 at the door will be donated to the Cool Aid Society (kids are free) Facebook:Nomad Holiday Market Event Page
Handmade Village Craft Market When: Saturday November 19 from 10am-4pm Location: North Douglas Church, 675 Jolly Place, Victoria, BC Admission: Free Facebook: Handmade Village Craft Market
Holiday Market and Silver Bells Silent Auction When: Saturday November 26 from 9am-2pm Location: Cook Street Village Activity Centre, 380 Cook Street, Victoria, BC Admission: Free, but you are encouraged to bring an item for the Mustard Seed Food Bank Website:Holiday Market and Silver Bells Silent Auction
Marine Research and Education Society Fundraising Trip
Recently I was surprised by a wonderful gift: the opportunity to attend the Marine Education & Research Society‘s Annual Fundraising Trip with a few members of my family. The Marine Education & Research Society (MERS) is a vital, charitable organization based out of Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island. For the last few years, I have been following them on social media and have been continually impressed by their determination to bring whale/ocean research and education into the public sphere. Their integrity and passion shines through so clearly in everything they do. I consider it an honour to be able to support MERS by donating to their yearly fundraising auction (stay tuned this spring!) and to have my greeting cards carried in their Ocean Store. However, up until this point I had not yet had the pleasure of visiting Port McNeill or MERS in person. I was also thrilled to finally meet Jackie Hildering, AKA The Marine Detective. She is one of the founding members of MERS, and a passionate marine educator/researcher. Spots on these trips fill quickly, and due to the pandemic, this particular trip had been in the works for two years.
I am excited to share some of my photographs, personal reflections and information I learned during this amazing trip with you! I hope you will enjoy scrolling through this post.
Please note that I was using a telephoto lens and have cropped images so that you can see them better. Marine mammals need space to live and thrive. For information about Canadian Marine Mammal Regulations and tips on how to avoid collisions with cetaceans, check out the See A Blow Go Slow webpage. It is an excellent resource full of solid, practical information.
The first marine mammals we encountered were sea otters. This was the first time I’ve seen sea otters. Sea otters used to be plentiful along our coasts, however the last one was shot in 1929/30. In the late ’60’s and early ’70s there was a re-population effort made by the Canadian and US governments. They took otters from Alaska and introduced them to a location on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. Thanks to this project, the sea otter population is establishing themselves and expanding their territory. It is because of that project that I was able to see sea otters for the first time. During the trip we were told that the individuals we observed were males (the females preferring other locations) and that you can tell who was the most “distinguished” in years. As they age, their face becomes whiter. With the reintroduction of sea otters (a previously native species), there are visible impacts on the marine environment. Sea otters love to eat sea urchin, which love to eat kelp. Now that the sea otters are back and happily munching away on these spiny treats, the kelp forests are changing and growing. This of course has many subsequent impacts on the marine environment, food chain and even humans that depend on the ocean for their livelihood. A complex story for sure, but also a hopeful one!
One of the most visually impactful sights I witnessed was not even seeing whales. It was seeing birds. Vaporous clouds of birds! Seemingly out of nowhere, all of a sudden, these active formations would appear hovering over the surface of the water. Then they would disintegrate and reform in another location. It was hard to take my eyes off of these winged swarms. And if you watched long enough…. *pfffffft* A spout! And another! It almost looked as though the whales were tracking these ethereal clouds (although I honestly don’t know how much they see of these birds from a distance underwater). But they share a common motivator to these birds. Swarms of birds = swarms of fish. I found these bird clouds fascinating because it was like they were giving us a picture of what was happening under the water, where I cannot see. Swarms of fish are called “baitballs”…. I think I am going to call these bird clouds birdballs.
There was a point along our trip when we were stopped and watching some humpbacks feeding, when the water started to practically boil with activity. Pacific white-sided dolphins! They were very active and, like the humpbacks and birds, ready for a hearty dinner of fish. They were doing something called “porpoising”, which means that they were leaping out of the water as they swam. As I stood there in awe, trailing them with my camera lens I caught a blur of brown. What? A brown dolphin? No. It couldn’t be. Could it…..? It flashed by again! A pair of huge sealions! And yes, they were swimming with the dolphins. Rolling around each other and….yup! They were porpoising too! According to estimates of the crew, there were possibly around 100 dolphins (and two rather outgoing sea lions).
And speaking of porpoises…. this leads me to the next cetacean species that we encountered. Years ago I was reading about a specific species of porpoise that is a blocky, funny-looking creature. Apparently, when they surface, they look like a rotating square. Ever since I read this description, Dall’s porpoises have been on the very top of my Cetaceans I Want To See List. I could not believe my eyes! These little speed devils zipped around so fast. Splashing, rotating square porpoises! I am not sure how many there were…. maybe about 5 or 6. They were closely escorting a humpback by the name of Ridge (BCX1249)…. much, it seemed, to his aggravation. I am not sure why they were hanging out to closely to him, but he seemed to not particularly enjoy the attention. At one point he surfaced and gave an auditable exasperated sound when he exhaled. This behavior is called trumpeting. I have read about this, so it was amazing to actually hear it. We saw Ridge a few more times a little later on… still surrounded by his edgy entourage.
You were probably wondering if I was ever going to show you pictures of whales. Well, here they are. And not just any whales, humpback whales! As adults, these giants can grow up to 14-17 meters in length and weigh up to 40 tonnes. I have already mentioned a few things about humpbacks above, because it is hard to talk about one species without mentioning the ones around it. Humpbacks, like many other large whale species, were heavily whaled along BC’s coasts. This came to an end in 1964. The humpback population has taken a long, slow path to recovery. When MERS started cataloging humpbacks along the north coast of Vancouver Island in 2004 they were not spotted regularly but the numbers have been greatly increasing since then. Here is an interesting article by CTV News interviewing Jackie about the “humpback comeback”. Like the sea otters, it is encouraging to hear about these populations that were pushed to the brink of extinction and have somehow managed to bounce back. Many of the humpback whales we observed were feeding on large groups of small fish with the changing tide. We watched two different types of feeding strategies be employed by humpback whales: lunge-feeding and trap-feeding.
Lunge-Feeding: The first humpbacks that we encountered was a mother, Black Pearl (BCX1460), teaching her calf, Kraken (2022 calf), how to lunge-feed (see my photos for reference). When there is a large concentration of fish, humpback whales can employ this technique by diving and traveling under water to be under the baitball. Then they swim vertically to the surface while opening their gigantic mouth, which expands their throat pleats like a parachute and allows them to capture many fish inside. When they close their mouths at the surface, they use their tongue to push the water out of their mouth between their baleen plates, which act like a sieve, straining out the water and keeping the tasty fish inside. It was so special to be able to observe a mother passing along this knowledge to her little one.
Trap-Feeding: This feeding strategy uses less energy from the whale than lunge-feeding. Humpbacks seem to employ this technique in situations where there are less dense concentrations of pray–when they want a “snack” but don’t want to work too hard for it. In this case, whales seek out birdballs (my term for concentrations of birds feeding on fish) and stealthily sidle up with their huge mouth open at the surface. The fish are frantically trying to get away from the birds and think, “Oh look! A cave to hide inside where we can get away…..”. And they hop/jump and swim into the shelter of the waiting humpback’s mouth. It’s almost cheeky on the whale’s part and incredibly cleaver!
This past weekend was Thanksgiving. I have so much to be grateful for in life, including YOU! Thank you for your support in reading my blog posts and for staying connected. This community is a huge encouragement to me. Art is often considered a private activity. However, I believe that when you view and engage with artworks, they become active and alive. Your participation fulfills the purposes of art. As an artist, I could not do what I do without you. Thank you for joining me in this journey. ❤
I am also very grateful for the gift of being able to participate on this trip, to get to know MERS and the MERS team better. Thank you Mackay Whale Watching for hosting us your beautiful vessel.
Hello everyone! Tomorrow, Saturday September 17, I am participating in a FREE children’s event at Hillside Mall. The activities are all about nature education, conservation and engagement!
Scroll below to see a list of the activities and times. Find me at the Activity Table with colour-your-own-bookmarks. I had so much fun creating these for the event! I made three different designs: tide pool ecosystem, cetaceans of BC and a fun, folding bookmark that reveals what is hiding below the surface of the water. Bring your children, nieces, nephews and their friends… I have LOTS of bookmarks that need colouring! =)
Here is a list of the activities:
FILM PRESENTATION: The Hundred-Year-Old Whale, Orcas of the Salish Sea, Film by Mark Leiren-Young, Canadian Council for the Arts 12 – 2 PM
HIVE TO HONEY JAR WORKSHOP: Beekeeper Liam will be demonstrating how honey is extracted from the hive! 12 – 2 PM
SEAQUARIA: Touch tanks with live sea creatures, World Fisheries Trust 12 – 3 PM
CHILDREN’S CRAFT: Colour an ocean-themed bookmark created by Artist Natasha van Netten, 12 – 3 PM
It’s finally here…. the TD Art Gallery Paint-In! This is Victoria’s largest outdoor arts festival. The entire length of Moss Street will be closed tomorrow, Saturday July 16, to vehicles from the Gallery to the ocean (that’s about 10 blocks!) from 11am-4pm and both sides of the street will be lined with artists—bringing their studies to you!
My booth is #101 and will be located on the east side of the street somewhere between May Street and Faithful Street. I will be bringing oil paintings, original drawings, wire whales (my regular ones as well as large scale ones), cards, bookmarks, buttons, stickers, and more! I am planning on making wire whales while I am there… so you can see the magic of 3D drawing in action. =)
Click here to go to the Paint-In website where you will find a complete list of artists and all the info you will need for this event.
Today is the first day of the Wild Auction 2022! This fundraiser is for Pacific Wild. Here is their mission statement: Pacific Wild supports innovative research, public education, community outreach and raising conservation awareness to achieve the goal of lasting environmental protections for the lands and waters of the Great Bear Rainforest and throughout the wild Pacific Northwest. If you would like to learn more about their approach to conservation and how they take action, here is a link to their Strategic Plan for 2022-23.
Instagram Takeover….TODAY (Monday May 16 at 2pm)
Check out Pacific Wild’s Instagram page for some beautiful, conservation-based content. They are worth the follow. This afternoon only, check out their story feed as I will be doing an Instagram takeover! I have a few exciting things planned for this… fun whale facts, an intro by yours truly and a few videos of my drawing process and… stop motion animation! =)
Wild Auction: 9am Monday May 16 to 5pm Friday May 20, 2022
Over 120 artists, businesses, and individuals from around the world have come together to share their passion for conservation of British Columbia’s wildlife. Contributions are from Brazil, to Norway, to Los Angeles, and across Canada. These supporters are donating 30-100% of the sale of their contribution(s) to fund Pacific Wild’s work.
I have three works available in the auction. Two seawater and ink limited edition giclée prints from drawings I created in Iceland and an original gouache on embossed paper contour chart based on the southern gulf island network. You can find these items by searching my name on the auction page. I am donating 80% of the sale to Pacific Wild (to help cover my printing and supply costs).
Hello! I just wanted to send out a quick announcement about a market that is taking place this weekend (and that I am taking part in): The Pop-In Market April 30th and May 1st. It is happening inside Mayfair Mall here in Victoria. There will be food vendors, live music, 40 local makers stalls and will certainly be a fun and interesting event to attend (rain or shine!). Bring your family and friends. No entrance fee! =)
Market Hours: Saturday, April 30: 10am-6pm Sunday, May 1: 10am-5pm
Location of Mayfair Mall: 3147 Douglas Street, Victoria BC
My location in the Market: My booth is in the hallway between Lenscrafters and Sirens.
Bonus Fun: There is also a fair happening outside in the parking lot. It will be happening on Saturday from 12pm-10pm and on Sunday from 12pm to 6pm.