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 Ni├žoise 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)