Monday, August 29, 2011

Monhegan is a Painter's Dream

It has been quite a Summer - the highlight of which for me was a return to paint on Monhegan Island, Maine.

Charles Vandersluys created this video comprised of his amazing photographs taken on Monhegan, various paintings in progress and completed, and snippets of artists including yours truly commenting on the isle experience.

It was fabulous to paint alongside my friend and mentor, J. Baldini, who hosts a workshop there every Summer. Check it out! At days' end, there is always fresh lobster on the beach and much camaraderie.

Monday, March 21, 2011

From Single Malt Cove - March 14, 2011: Capture the world while you can

Capture the world while you can

By Brandy Gale, From Single Malt Cove

Once upon a time, before the average person could hop on a plane and see a desert, palm tree, iceberg, or tiger for oneself, folks relied on artists' renderings for visual knowledge of everything on the planet that did not exist in their immediate environment. 

Storytelling and imagination fleshed out the essence of such lands, beasts, forests, and humans, but a picture is worth a thousand words.

Some think this may happen again — that we will use up the Earth's finite energy resources and won't have the capacity left to find and employ new ones. Then, only refugees, pirates, and the very wealthy will have the opportunity to travel great distances and enjoy first-hand, primary visual experiences of foreign lands.

When I travel, I make art, always: I document the substance of a place from life while I still can.

Acknowledging the plausible outcome of our carefree ways with the planet's resources can make one serious about one's craft. My focus intensifies. I treasure the moment. Seize the day. Can't relax — not much, anyway!

With a smile as big as the ocean I write to you today from the island nation of Barbados. I have been coming here to visit with my parents and paint for many years.

Like our own island community of Prince Edward County, Barbados has a flourishing circle of working artists. I hope next year to attend a workshop held by the accomplished painter Henderson Reece, whose stunning batiks are truly an inspiration to me.

Studying the coastline on our approach into Grantley Adams International Airport revealed exciting colours of a different spectrum than in Canada. Barbados is 13 degrees from the equator; everything, including colours, is hotter here.

A 20-minute drive (on the "other" side of the road, eek!) ferries us to our destination: a heavenly place called The Crane. Built high atop a coral cliff in 1887, The Crane is the Caribbean's oldest hotel.
I love the palm shadows dancing on the walkway to the room. They are like old friends waving me back to the fold.

Below, the pink beach stretches endlessly. The cliffs keep watch stoically as the waves erode them. As we struggle to prevent the erosion of our sand dunes at Sandbanks, the Bajans do what they can to prevent the inevitable.

(Image: watercolour sketch of the cliffs at Crane Beach, Barbados, by Brandy Gale)

Rendering these cliffs year after year, I am witness to the effect of the elements on terra not so firma.
We enjoy a dinner of salade Niçoise composed by my Dad, locally brewed Banks beer, and terrific conversation. Post-sunset, my beloved muse and I sneak off to sketch the evening skies as constellations glitter by the glow of a fingernail moon.

The next morning, I paint tropical gardens at sunrise, gazing over the cliff to the sublime teal sea. Then it's off to Bathsheba, where "old Barbados" lives on.

With its exquisitely rugged terrain, Bathsheba seems like another planet. Coral-filled caverns with parrotfish guarding the entrance greet you and your snorkel. There are hunks of worn coral as big as Picton's Crystal Palace languishing in the surf.

 (Image: Bathsheba beach, photo by Brandy Gale)
It's textural heaven for the artist. When I paint these scenes in sepia, this relatively untouched part of the island looks just like an old postcard from 1887.

These forays may not always be so readily available to me. I am a lucky artist, coming from a far-off land to create and spark imagination in those back home who might not get the opportunity to walk along these beaches, to breath this air.

Walking in my parents' footprints as I follow them along the beach, I realize that being in the moment is key.

Full article here in the County Weekly

Friday, March 04, 2011

From Single Malt Cove - March 2, 2011: Nature can inspire us all

My raised bed gardens on Glenora Road

At "Seedy Saturday," last weekend at St Andrews Presbyterian Church, Prince Edward County
residents brought seeds to exchange, checked out the various workshops on offer, and enjoyed chatting with other gardeners.

Seed saving and swapping events have been going on in Canada for many years. Picton's Seedy Saturday was sponsored by Transition Prince Edward County, an international movement supporting food security, permaculture, socioeconomic localization, and sustainable community.

A long-time seed collector, I plant a garden for food and to do my part to keep various varietals of Canada's heritage plants in a regrowth cycle rather than see them face extinction due to such trends as monoculture and hybridization. I also do it to obtain live botanical specimens to paint and draw inspiration from.

Watching the diminutive seeds suddenly sprout in my sunny front bay window on a chilly late winter's day gives me enormous pleasure and connects me to the earth. Like when you look at those maps of the solar system wherein the earth is a speck of sand in comparison to the rest of the universe, you feel small, grounded and trouble-free.

Transplanting the seedlings after the last frost to the garden beds is something I look forward to very much. Sketching and painting their progress is a delight — from sprout to bloom, to fruit or vegetable, to seed, and to rest when the first snow falls.

Nature is such a wonderful teacher if you give her your attention.

Artwork inspired by gardens goes back a long way, connecting us to artists and gardens of the past. This encourages us to reflect on the social, economical, historical and aesthetic contexts of the time, and how we value our gardens today.

Paintings of Ancient Roman gardens found in villas in the ruins of Pompeii were highly valued works of art at the time. Depictions of medieval gardens grace the pages of many precious manuscripts of the Middle Ages. La Primavera - Botticelli's opus - is set in a citrus orchard.

From the 17th-century Dutch masters to the French Impressionists — most notably Monet and his dreamy depictions of his gardens at Giverny — to modernists like Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keeffe, Andy Warhol, and David Hockney, many great artists have portrayed flowers, plants and gardens.

Each had his or her views on the subject. Often the aim of the modernists was aesthetic; realism was neither essential nor intended as would be the case with, say, the incredibly accurate botanical illustrations of German biologist Ernst Haeckel. (Google "Kunstformen der Natur" sometime over coffee, and enjoy a wealth of scientific illustrations that are fascinating works of art in their own right.)

Thinking locally, countless artists come to mind: Tess Moffat paints in her garden, Judy Plomer's vivacious poppies sprang from the red walls of SideStreet Gallery in Wellington at her last show there, and Mia Lane's vast perennial plantings in Demorestville surely serve as constant inspiration.

Getting down to earth and getting intimate with nature as part of the artistic process is invaluable. Whether growing our own or visiting others' gardens and farms to work, making art in the field can help the artist in us open up our concept of "landscape" while drawing attention to Prince Edward County's amazing diversity of plants.

(full article here)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Winter far from colourless if one looks closely

Indoors and out, plenty to stimulate the senses
From Single Malt Cove
by Brandy Gale

Friends Cindy and Colm MacCool of MacCool's Re-Use in West Lake recently returned from a trip to the warm south. An image from their Facebook photo album shows Colm taking in a selection of Russian-American Abstract Expressionist artist Mark Rothko's "colour field" paintings.
Rothko was not always an abstract artist. It was during the winter of October 1948 that he first employed large, flat blocks of two or three opposing yet complementary areas of colour on wall-size canvasses.

In these seminal paintings, references to nature are basic, reduced to essential clues and hints: mere suggestions of natural forms and textures that resonate in the subconscious rather than the conscious mind. This lack of figurative representation allows for pure emotion to surface and be experienced. By "experiencing," I refer to the emotional reaction one might have when giving over one's senses to the atmosphere created by Rothko's eloquently articulated, psychological use of colour. 

The longer one spends viewing these monumental works, the more one is transfixed, affected by the juxtaposed areas of saturated hues that radiate from these colour-scapes.

Colour evokes emotion although the type and strength of one's emotional responses depend on variables relating to past experiences, traditions with which we have become familiar, and cultural environments in which we have been immersed. 

One could even argue that these variables are the primary instigators of our unique responses when confronted by the same work of art.

But we are deep in winter in Prince Edward County; colour seems so minimal, so reduced, detail is muted. For many, the primary mood evoked is somber.

But looking out at all that grey, pause for a moment. How many shades of gray can you see? And, if you look closely, that same off-white über-tone allows a fascinating array of brilliant detail — often miniature yet awesomely significant — to surprise and move the observer.

The artist in us can look beyond the cold, the bleak, and the gray, transforming winter into something that is, in fact, quite colourful, intimate and human. 

Running the gamut from representational to abstraction, artists who make art in response to the Northern Hemisphere landscape in winter find colour and detail in all that grey.

Bare trees reveal tangles of resting bird nests. Smooth fields of snow vibrate and sparkle as the morning sun hits. Pale flags of peeling birch bark flutter beside a flush of red berries. A cardinal struts in splendour at a feeder at noon. Tides of long blue shadow ebb and flow at end of day. Hills on the horizon at dusk are backlit by golden-pink alpenglow. Silver smoke spreads from chimneys like a rumour of the warmth within, driven outside by woodstove fires which put a glow in the windows of houses as night falls across the County.

Ice Breaker, the current exhibition at Arts on Main Gallery in Picton, evidences this all this and more. Vanessa Pandos' abstract glass sculpture rivals the bluest winter sky; Pamela Carter's snowscapes feature splendid violet shadows amid the snow banks, evoking memories of summers evocative with the fragrance of those elusive flowers themselves; and Bruce Milan's jet-black iron compositions are reminiscent of a snug winter kitchen warmed by the fire in a radiant cast-iron stove.

The results are anything but sombre. Let's turn those winter blues into a Winter Blues Fest. Find a friend, bundle up, and go for a long, observant walk outdoors, then meander to an art gallery and get your winter colour fix – indoors and out.

[Arts on Main Gallery is located at 223 Picton Main Street. The current show, Ice Breaker, runs until March 21.]

Brandy Gale is an artist based in Prince Edward County. Her Rednersville studio, Single Malt Cove, is open by chance or appointment.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Romance and Valentine's Day

New column is up!

Taking a yoga class at Valery Philip's studio in Bloomfield is a way to keep both mind and body healthy. Looking up from the cobra pose, I often fix my gaze upon a large screen impression of painter Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss" that hangs, or rather floats, from the studio's loft ceiling.

Completed in 1908, Klimt's piece is an opulent paean to passionate love. The gold leaf and pattern surrounding two lovers forever entwined helps set my mind free to find love, beauty and stillness in my pose. The cobra pose is, after all, supposed to help open the space around the heart.

Opening up that space can be a catalyst, releasing memories. Recently, I was transported back 25 years to the day when I first gazed upon Oskar Kokoschka's "Bride of the Wind (die Windsbraut)."
A large canvas painted in oil in 1913, this piece took me by storm at the Kunstmuseum in Basel, Switzerland. A tumultuous, flowing rendition of romance and love despite the odds, the painting's imagery has come back to me time and again, for different reasons.

Currently, the painting reminds me of love's potential at any age, and that even though we die, love is timeless, and true love cannot be worn away by the elements around us, much as we may worry about that from time to time.

Nurturing that kind of love is important, but how do we do so now, almost a century later, surrounded with the fleeting images of today's popular culture and its incessant commercialism?

Feb. 14 is Valentine's Day. Initially established by Pope Gelasius I in 500AD, it was originally a religious holiday.

Today's Valentine's Day is a commercialized travesty, reinvented by greeting card companies and co-opted by the candy industry. You cannot seem to escape the hype.

Considering those artists who were masters of capturing a universal emotion — that of attachment to and affection toward an intimate partner — has me thinking. A lot of art and culture focusses on matters of the heart. As purchasers, we can take back ownership of Valentine's Day from the commercialized entity that it has become by considering the original rationale for the holiday; as individuals, those of us whose budget may not always be as large as the affection we wish to express can find a gift that focusses on our love and commitment, rather than its dollar value equivalent.

Why not just plan to spend time together with that special person, and spring for tickets to a local play? The production I saw last Saturday night at the Picton Community Centre — Prince Edward Community Theatre's production of Sam Bobrick's "Remember Me?" — is quite "romantical", as my pal Monty would say.

Or consider penning a sonnet. Hire a singer to compose a song for you and yours. Paint a picture to go with those dozen roses.

Yoga classes for two would be time well spent for some couples. Or find a simple, handmade gift, locally made, something as unique as your love for the recipient.

After all, you don't have to be like Van Gogh, cutting off his ear as a gift for his paramour. Passion, like art, is a great way to spice up a romantic relationship, but it shouldn't be destructive. Instead, use the scissors to cut out a coupon for a romantic meal at a County restaurant, or to create a homemade Valentine's card.

Let's take back the true meaning of the day set aside to celebrate the fact that we all fall in love.

Full article

Thursday, January 20, 2011

From Single Malt Cove - January 20, 2011 Column: PEC as Cultural Artifact

Discover the world in PEC

From Single Malt Cove

By Brandy Gale

Single Malt Cove in The County is my home, but the other day I was thinking of how one can never know any place completely. Making foreign places not so foreign has been a passion of mine since I took my first baby steps in the Grottos de Han, a cave system near Rochfort, Belgium.

As a military brat, growing up all over the planet with my beloved family exposed me to constant challenges of adaptation and taught me to explore new cultures rather than fear their different-ness. As a young adult, I peregrinated for many years: a jaunt here, an expedition there, learning and exploring.
More recently, I've painted during my forays. I invent an alternative landscape of sorts, a semi-abstract one that hopefully captures some essence of the locale.

In between creative sessions, my artistic soul moves among the location's people, landscape, customs, ideas, and culture. Whatever a place's gifts are, I seek to communicate them to others on canvas: souvenirs of my own journey to seek beauty, light and all things centred and positive. To me, this is happiness worth pursuing anywhere.

If you're interested in the world, in people, in art and culture, in discovering a meaningful way to live your life and how to be happy, then The County is a wonderful spot to...

read more!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Introducing: From Single Malt Cove

To my great happiness and honour, I have been invited by the local paper to write a column.

Meet the new columnists at the County Weekly News, from left, Bryan Bondy, Pat Larkin, Brandy Gaile, Vicky Roy, Graham Sayers, and Ange Stever.
JEROME LESSARD/The Intelligencer
PICTON – County Weekly News (CWN) will soon be offering the Generation X's perspective.
Starting Thursday, a group of six young and dynamic columnists will share their views and opinions on a variety of topics. From social media and current events, technology, lifestyle, local business community, to cultural scene, everything Prince Edward County will be open for discussion.

read more!