Saturday, April 1, 2023

moving along

progression, on all fronts...

in my last week here, things have started to come together - it seems all this thinking time has been good after all

most of what i've learned is in reference to what i like, what i'm drawn to...

the old, weathered, linear, industrial, abstract, faded and worn

texture and line, strength in both

neutral colours but a splash of something bold now and again

a contrast of natural softness and industrial strength

these first images are crops of photos taken at the transportation museum on my birthday... crawling on the floor, trying to get some interesting angles... thankfully it was a quiet day but my actions did garner a few odd looks 

the side of a late 1920s truck

cast shadows on the floor

part of an aircraft engine

another angle

yesterday i got the idea to write verses from "the spell of the yukon" onto white tissue paper to collage with when i get home

at first my writing was fairly neat 

the tissue paper had a mind of it's own though and it was easier to give in to the nature of it,  letting the letters go where they may as the pen and the paper wished
(I learned that from the expressive calligraphy course with brody n. though this writing is in no way reflective of calligraphy)

this second column is a bit looser because of that

letting go even more

and yet more again...

that writing led me to my small "sketchbook of days" begun here in on my arrival in january

favourite lines and couplets from the same poem written lightly over several pages followed with a light wash of paint in the colours i am seeing here at the moment

three two-page spreads with varying transparency in the colour;  shown here is the lightest of the three

sketching on top of all of them is next - perhaps some mountains or hills, maybe skinny trees, winter branches...  when i get home i'll try this again with my light grey permanent pens as well as my dip pens using a more calligraphic style of writing... perhaps some fireweed pink colour added to the mix... or purple for the spring crocuses that will cover the hills after my departure... and the flowers themselves sketched on top... maybe a splash of gold paint

none of these thoughts are original - you can see versions of any or all of it all over the internet but they are new to me and a way of moving my thinking along in a delightful easy going way

Saturday, March 25, 2023


the days go by and time here is winding down... just two weeks left before i head home and winter is only now starting to ease it's grip, the ice of the river breaking up in earnest

i've been feeling less inspired of late - ideas are percolating but without my art supplies here things are in limbo

there has been research on the river and work done on my collaged and painted backgrounds but that's about it

one thing i came across online was a hand-drawn map of the yukon river from the latter half of the 1800s

i do love old maps

i also stumbled on a video compiled by the national film board of canada - i couldn't access it through the film board but it is on youtube 

it was wonderful seeing the riverboats in action on the river after only seeing them either dry-docked or perched on the riverbank

watching it, i noticed imagery that seemed to echo my shipboard papers-in-making

the ice broke up on the river long before it did on the lakes so lines of lampblack (seen below) were laid out on the lake ice to encourage melting

 the sternwheelers also pushed barges up river in early spring,  using them as ice breakers on the lakes

and four parallel lines on the roof of the wheelhouse

here is a link to the video if you are interested, or search "In the Days of the Riverboats":

below is the first ship board paper piece with many coats of watercolour and acrylic paint, sanded often between coats

the next two images are of the second piece - this one was done mostly with plain strips of paper from the book with a few pieces here and there with map markings - watercolour and gesso but no acrylic paint this time

the map markings don't show through very much though they do in real life though if you click on the images they will enlarge and you can see the detail better

the film and resulting still shots are quite grainy but i suppose that's understandable considering the footage is pre-1937, 86 years ago

and interestingly enough, today would have been my grandparents 86 wedding anniversary, married here in whitehorse on the evening of thursday march 25 in the old log church

i've felt somewhat adrift these past two months - home, yet not home but it's lovely to be toasting their memory in the place i remember them best

Saturday, March 18, 2023

river stories

 painted skies this morning, burnished with gold

a sunrise so beautiful it could only be met in silence

a slight shift to the right, away from the golden light, the colours were muted yet intense... a contradiction, but nature follows her own rules

later, a walk along the river

slanted sunlight sparkled across the open water and snowy ice creating shadows contrast that made the break-up ice stand out clearly from the rest

near the end was the "Klondike", one of the last sternwheelers to make the trip from whitehorse to dawson and back again
(interestingly, the freight on the very last run to dawson each year before freeze-up was 100% liquor!)

thinking ahead to work i'm planning had me looking closely at the architectural elements and converting the images to "noir"  to highlight them further

(noir is a little more intense than black & white)

close-ups of the ship boards revealed interesting textures where the paint was peeling

another of the backgrounds that has been in the works - this one is long, thin strips of river map drawings taken from my yukon river book, glued down with matte medium

next up is watercolour paint and gesso, tomorrow i'll sand it and do another coat of gesso and then see how it looks - aiming for a background evocative of the sides of the boats

i'm enjoying working on these backgrounds though it's a bit of a slow, drawn out process so in the meanwhile i've been keeping on with some small collages - below is one where i put together two strips of torn watercolour paper for a sky, an off-cut from an image in the book for the land and a torn piece of scrim that had gesso and dark watercolour paint for snow

these little compositions don't come easily for me but once in a while i get a gem

three more weeks here before i head home and so much to see and do before then

Saturday, March 11, 2023


several posts back i wrote of wanting to capture and record the various colour palettes, snippets of cloth and thread, and notes about materials i am drawn to, things i use in my work and writings that resonate

a kind of commonplace book on making

 a start has finally been made on it after months of searching for just the right book to keep it all in

can't say i found the right book... the one originally intended turned out not to be practical and so the quest began 
other than the white pages everything else about this one is wrong but the urge to begin was to strong and this was all that was available so here i go

the front pages (endpapers) were a strange shade of lilac so i covered one with a strip map of the yukon river, beginning at marsh lake

the title page has a small collage made from a wildflower pressed last year that was in rather poor shape so i covered it with gesso and quite liked the look of it

no title yet, still pondering that

yesterday i worked on the first colour palette page... using scraps of the papers from my work here

it's a subtle one, lots of whites and creams, beige, a greyed lilac, smoky blue, green/brown and brown/black... the colours that surround me here everyday

i'm glad to have finally begun and keen to see how it goes, hoping it's something that can be easily kept up

sifting through the scraps of paper, shuffling them from here to there, had me thinking of collages and the dozens of flowers pressed last summer

 small collages that take me back to those beautiful summer days

two 2" squares per page of a double-page spread

first, a water-soluble graphite pencil in midnight black, followed by fragments from the black & white images of the klondike... then torn bits of art papers and magazines 

once that dried marks were added with a black pigment marker and then a light wash here and there using a slate-green water soluble graphite pencil

lastly, re-tracing the outline with the black marker

some torn edges, some cut... trying not to be predictable

 working on four at once kept it lively, not letting me to get too caught up with any one in particular

my scrap paper pile is finally dwindling but there are a few more of these in me yet

it's such a great way of capturing what inspires whilst at the same time offering yet more to think about

Saturday, March 4, 2023


working away at things every day is beginning to yield results

doing something always starts with shuffling pieces of fabric or paper around, layering, looking, thinking and then shuffling it all around again but eventually something captures my attention and things start to happen

last week there was a hankering to make a painted background reminiscent of the snowy mountains you see in every direction

torn tissue paper on watercolour paper - no brush for gluing so i used my fingers which resulted in a rougher texture as the edges of the delicate tissue paper rolled and bunched under the pressure

no parchment paper to protect it whilst being weighed down for drying so cling wrap was used instead which, when pulled away a day later, left behind areas with sheen - some kind of transfer occurred but the cling wrap itself is intact so not sure exactly what happened but the effect was beautiful

french ultramarine and burnt sienna watercolour made a nice grey though it did separate a bit as it dried - at first i was disappointed but eventually decided it was actually a nice effect

this has since been cut for a variety of things, one of which has been to use as mounting backgrounds for some of my pressed flowers

the first trial on khadi paper with an image from the book on the yukon river and then a piece of the painted paper with pressed wild flax

and the same idea but on a larger scale

this next one is hard to see and is still in progress... rectangles of text cut from the same book glued to watercolour paper (again with matte medium), a splotchy layer of titan buff watercolour, black pigment-marker lines between the rectangles and then a coat of zinc white acrylic

if you click on it you should see a larger image where the details will show better - this is a slow, make-it-up-as-you-go process so it will be mid-week before it's done (guessing!)

as soon as I started on this the thought of making one using long strips taken from the river maps in the book would be a nod to the riverboats that were the mainstay of travel in the yukon and would be an interesting background to work with so a sample size trial of that has already begun

then came a quick mark-making session spurred by the sight of little birds flitting about the other day

not a great image for it was very cold and blowing snow - this small tree (4 feet high) was filled with about 20 of these little birds that would all fly out and then back, over and over again

and finally, continuing with the quick sketches - this one using the same wild flax from last summer

when the drawing was finished I had a hankering to glue the flower itself on the page so I did although the thought didn't occur to me until I had already removed the small clump of buds on the left side of the drawing (they were used in one the pieces shown above)

so a busy week

it's been interesting working with limited supplies, the having to make do, but i'm beginning to think the real benefit is coming from the limitation of time... there's no settling down to try an idea as it occurs, nor to work on things to any extent in one sitting which leaves a lot of time to consider what it is i'm thinking and doing, what might come next, how it might all fit together

time to let the ideas really settle and develop rather than just rushing along because i can

Saturday, February 25, 2023

run river run

last weekend was spent in a cabin in the woods at marsh lake

the first day was overcast, a day where the ground and sky were almost the same colour and the only colour in the landscape came from the hills and trees

a windy day with ice crystals in the air, diffusing the light and softening the shapes

the next day the sun shone, the sky added a flash of blue and the edges of the landscape hardened

on both days we walked in the woods...

the other day I started on some pencil studies of the photos, quick, mostly value-driven except where lines took over the image 

here are the first two

the light through the trees was golden; pulsating rays that made one feel was the forest was breathing, in and out, in and out 

on the way to the lake we had stopped at the used book store so to rummage through the northern books where i hit the jackpot

a 1985 publication mapping the yukon river from marsh lake to circle city... a history of the river from the early 1800s to the mid-1900s complete with pages and pages of hand-drawn maps accompanied by corresponding photographs and notes from yukon archives

the paper seemed to be of a good quality with a nice weight to it so the first thing was to try adding colour

i used graphitint pencils by derwent, testing a few soft colours... no bucking or texture change at all which pleased me immensely

next was to try tinting a few of the images - i was trying for a hand-tinted photo effect

below i used a yellow-green, just in the sunny areas

and then a pale cool grey


next a simple pocket fold, concertina-style - the paper folded beautifully, crisp edges, nice and sturdy so i made it into a small book

the cover is watercolour paper, painted like the freezing river

a couple of the pages tinted, still trying different colours though i discovered i prefer using only one colour in a book this size

from the leftover paper i cut a bookmark and tucked it into a pocket to see what that might look like

the plan now is to copy different lines from the "spell of the yukon" by robert service... this one will have 
"and the rivers all run god knows where"

feels appropriate... as i think about maybe finally being in "flow" with my ideas, and though there is no clear direction to them it's comforting to take that line on as a metaphor of my own

no need to know where the ideas going. just letting them flow and watching the river run