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Thursday, October 01, 2015

An Adventure Realized

No matter how well you lay the groundwork, some things refuse to go according to plan. "The best laid schemes of mice and men," as Scottish poet Robert Burns so famously put it. Well - I never
On the shores of Loch Eck
claimed to technologically adept.

I was not able to access and utilize Mailchimp from my 7-inch android tablet in Scotland, nor was I able to access and update this blog. Hell, I wasn't even able to access my website's email, no matter how secure the internet access - so I had to ask my husband to monitor that for pertinent messages while I was away.

There were only two online-communications platforms that I could use with ease, that proved their unflagging reliability - Gmail and Facebook. So with that, I utilized Facebook as my means of communicating with friends, family, and anyone who wished to follow along in what proved to be one enormous two-month-long adventure in Scotland.

All those posts are readily available on my personal page, in public updates and uploads.  It takes a bit of scrolling back to get to July 2nd. I did so today, skimming as I went. When I finally reached the start of the adventure, I sat back and said aloud, "Good grief! Did I really do all that?"  Indeed, it's a lot to take in when you look at it all together.

Something else that is a lot to take in when you look at it all together is the mind-numbing pile of photos that were taken all throughout the country.  There are literally thousands of shots!  I am in the process of going through and organizing these so they may be uploaded - whether it will be to Picassa or to Flickr, I am as of yet undecided.  It will ultimately be whichever I think will be the easiest for those good folks who supported me in this journey - they will need to decide what they want me to paint for them, after all!  These are to be ready for perusal later this month, some time after the Fred Oldfield Western and Wildlife Art Show.

As for the blog, I will be posting retrospectives of this amazing journey.  Watch for posts on Thursdays and on Mondays. Just snippets, mind you, as there is still a book to come from it.  The working title for that is "Off the Beaten Path - an Artist's Adventure in Scotland". The target for release is by June 2016.

Until the next post, Mòran taing, and all the best!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Into Scotland's Wilds, an overview

Friends and regular readers of this blog will be familiar with this Scotland project of mine. I have been scheming on its details for a couple of years now, and with more intensity over the last 18
Hiking up to the Old Man of Storr. Isle of Skye, 2009
months as it comes closer to realization.  The post you now read is mainly intended as an introduction and overview for the members of Slighe nan Gaidheal, but even if you are familiar with the project's basics I encourage you to read on, as the project has certainly evolved since its initial inception.

On July 1st I will be embarking on a multi-faceted solo adventure, not to return to the Pacific Northwest until August 26th.  Initially I had intended 4 to 6 weeks for this, but in the reading and the maps and the research it was concluded that this must be treated as though it is the one and only chance I'll have to do it. No toe-dipping, let's give it everything we've got!

The project began as a gathering of photographs and research in order to produce a new body of artwork.  My method of travel and discovery is unusual though, and not many would or even could attempt it the way that I do - but I am convinced that many would certainly enjoy reading about it, and travel vicariously along with me.  I want to show folks what it's like - to travel all on one's own with a backpack and a tent, to immerse and lose one's self in the landscape and culture so far from home and well off the beaten tourist routes.

Some of these places I hope and plan to get into are quite remote and will necessitate a fair amount of isolation and wild camping.  The journey will begin, however, with the first few days in Edinburgh.  I'll meet with a couple of good friends who are Edinburgh residents who generously agreed to take me to very worthwhile places within the city that are missed by most tourists.  From there, it's a couple of days in Inverness.  After that, the journey will get a bit more rugged. I'll camp at Cannich, then walk across Glen Affric, over the western mountains by Kintail to Loch Duich, and across the Skye Bridge to Broadford. I estimate this leg of the journey to take at least 4 days.  A couple of days on Skye will be spent, along with a two-day walk and camp up the Trotternish Peninsula to meet the ferry to Harris.  I hope to catch the Heb Celt Festival on Lewis, which is celebrating its 20th year.

Beyond that point I am keeping my schedule very open and flexible.  I don't want to rent a car unless it's absolutely necessary to reach some of the places I hope to visit.  Some of these places include Torridon, Loch Maree, Mull, and Knoydart to name a few.  The only other part of this journey that is set in stone is Glasgow and the piping festival.  I want to retain a certain amount of agility in this adventure - to get far and away and into places seldom visited by the usual tourist - to slow down, touch each moment, absorb and notice - to linger when drawn to do so, or take a detour to take advantage of an opportunity which might suddenly present itself.  Immersion and a good deal of flexibility are key.

What will come of this
During all these wanders and experiences, I will be photographing, field sketching, painting, and writing the whole way through.  New bodies of work will come from this - the feather paintings for which I am most known, but also other media and in quite a few cases, mixed media. I'll be keeping a sketch journal throughout this adventure to capture wildlife, villages, scenes and more which I anticipate will be encountered along the way. I've been developing skills with pen and ink, watercolor and colored pencil, often on location, for this purpose.

Upon return of the trip, I will be producing a book - an artist's travel journal - filled with photographs, field sketches, polished art, and literary documentation of the adventure.  I intend to utilize every method available to me within its pages in order to really capture the sense of the adventure and present the full picture.  I wish to show people what it's like to remove one's self from the tourist treadmill and really experience Scotland's heart and spirit.  I hope to have this in print before the next Fèis, and I wish to donate a portion of each sale of this book (which will also be available on Amazon) to Slighe nan Gaidheal in support of its language, music, and cultural education programs.

Another body of artwork I hope to bring about when I am home again involves use of multiple artistic media, and including source water which I will collect with great deliberation, as this water will be used in the depiction of the places where the water was collected.  Imagine a painting of the mighty Liathach which uses water from the wild burn that tumbles down its side, or a painting of the recently dedicated statue of Tom Weir (who has been a massive inspiration in this journey), painted with water from his beloved Loch Lomond where the statue stands.  I truly do feel that the inclusion of such source water will make these creations all the more special. I have found 4-oz. shatterproof bottles just for this project, and continue to experiment locally with its development. I'll try salt water next as I would very much like to paint Eilean Donan with water from Loch Duich.

How you can participate, and help me bring this about-
Last Autumn I introduced a package and made it available to any who wish to support this project.  Those who purchase will receive much more value than the price of their initial investment.  Right away you will receive a limited edition print certificate which is signed, numbered and embellished with a hand-painted thistle, suitable for framing. You'll receive a postcard of one of my Scottish paintings with a personal message mailed to you from somewhere n Scotland. when I am home, I'll upload a sizeable selection of photographs and you may go through them and tell me what you would like painted, and I will create for you a multi-feather painting that is matted and framed at 8x10. My paintings of this size normally sell for $200 to $220, but the entire package is only $85 ($95 Can, $115 int'l). That is the full price, nothing extra for any of the shipping. This package is my way of saying Thank You!  Thank you for your interest, your support, and helping me make this all it can be!
You may find the package here, as well as a photograph of a feather painting like what you would receive.
I can only offer this for a bit over  a month longer, to allow time to produce and paint on certificates before I fly.
Thank you so much for your time and your interest, and I will keep blogging as I continue to prepare for the adventure, and once the adventure is underway... when I have a connection and may do so. Mòran taing!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Shelters - or, "Home is where you... happen to stop for the night!"

'Behold, the Trail Snail.... She may be slow, but she always gets to where she's going. Eventually.'

This pen drawing in my journal was inspired by a little snail down at the bottom of the canyon and above the Falls at Palouse last April during my preparatory hike and camp-out. Yes, I stopped right there and drew her, and those words entered my head as I did so, for she is surely me.

Perhaps one of the reasons she's slow is she's carrying her house on her back.  That will be me too, come July and August.  I'll be far away from home, but 'home' in its basic sense will be with me, and wherever I happen to stop for the night - no matter how wild or isolated that stop might be.

The two-night camp at Palouse Falls in April let me know precisely the current state of my gear.  Some needed replacing immediately. My old worn out tent let me know that pertinent bit of information as I set it up. The carbon pole split when I bent it into position, and I felt a seam on the fly begin to give when I pulled it taut.  The shattered pole could be made to endure that one last camp though - wrapping it tightly cord convinced it to stay put for those two nights.  This particular tent is only guaranteed three years, and here were were, going into year 8.  I think I got my money's worth out of it!

Indeed, the little tent has been so good to me, I opted to replace it with another of the same make and model - a Saguaro backpackers tent by Texsport.  When the new one arrived, I took note of the changes they made since I bought the other 8 years ago; the most noticeable and significant was the reflective silver on the fly.  When I realized this silver was on the outside and not the underside, I thought surely this was a manufacturing blunder - why on earth would you want to keep heat out??  Should this not be to keep heat IN?  It turns out that it was intended this way, which is not a thought that would cross the mind of a typical camper of my latitude.  I pitched it in the back yard and slept in it during rain and calm. It definitely keeps solar heat down to a minimum, and it also seems to stay warm and
any wonder why I'm calling it the Silver Slug?
cozy at night.  I suppose silver really isn't any more obnoxious than bright red or yellow in the grand scheme of things, and if I manage to get myself lost in the west highlands, that silver might make me locatable with a few aerial passes by Search and Rescue!  I am kidding, of course. I've since nicknamed it the Silver Slug.  It's heavier than its predecessor, weighing in at four pounds.  It's bigger though, and could comfortably contain two people.  It has reinforced stitching at stress points, where the predecessor had none.  Another nice feature is the addition of velcro tabs to further secure the fly to the poles.  Having camped before in the high winds of Glen Shiel in the west of Scotland, I know that will be a welcome thing.

Now Scotland, particularly the west, is notorious for wet weather at any given time of year - much like our mossy Pacific Northwest.  With that in mind, a rain fly for cooking and dining is vital.  I went without on my last trip there, and regretted it on more than one occasion.  Amazon sold me a very nice 8'x12' tarp of good quality and of a minuscule 4 ounces in weight.  After a few embarrassing and futile attempts at setup with cord and trekking poles in the safety of my yard, I turned to Youtube for advice.  There were many videos with fancy flies and fussy configurations, but thankfully I found one fellow in the UK who subscribes to the 'Keep It Simple' philosophy.  I include here a couple of views of the configuration I'm settling with (for now), with the 90-pound retriever clearly under the impression that this is his new house.  I'll also include at the bottom of this post the video I found that has allowed me to set up a rain fly with a bit of confidence, two trekking poles, and no trees.
As a friend rightly stated, "It's a pup tent!"

This should keep the rain off my back and my cooking.
And hopefully the wind too.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Building a writing habit.

The title of this blog post may seem overly ironic, as I have been in the unfortunate habit of neglecting this blog.  In the midst of gathering up all the strings of this summer's project and pulling them all together, I've let a couple of things rest by the wayside - this being one, and Gaidhlig studies being another.  Time grows painfully short and I want confidence that I've put my attention to the most necessary matters.

It is not to say building up writing skills has been neglected, however.  When I want to fully commit to something, I do it with pen and paper. The tactile act of writing triggers parts of the mind that typing on a keyboard does not. So it made sense to pursue this through use of a paper journal over the past year, and also by expanding this learning through the reading of several books produced for such a pursuit of improvement.

The summer's project is about more than producing art, and it is about more than travel in immersion, slowing down, and getting well off the beaten tourist track.  It is about presenting such travel to people who might not be able to visit another country in such a way.  To do this to the best of my ability, I need to be able to do so through carefully crafted words as well as through photography and art. It's the only way to present the full picture.
Palouse Falls, in Southwest Washington
Allow me to paint for you in words some of what I intend in this journey. 

Marmot babies
A life which awakens to birdsong in the early morning breezes, and pauses to bask in the late afternoon sunlight.  A life that slows down to touch every moment, that lingers to learn from and appreciate the people and places encountered along the way. A life that cherishes and savors the growing of friendships, old and new, and notices and appreciates new landscapes and each creature that crosses one's path in the journey.  This is travel that is fully experienced.
Field study of the yellow-bellied marmots at Palouse Falls.  Produced in
watercolor and colored pencil, and using source water gathered from
the Palouse River in the canyon above the Falls.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Determination, and self-determination

This topic is something I've wanted to write a blog post about for quite a long time, but for a long time I wasn't sure how to go about it. It's a story that I have shared with students, particularly when they seem a bit reluctant to jump in and try.

This scenario occurred at my very first Big Art Show, back in 2003.  Before this I had been entering paintings into juried art shows in local communities and county fairs, and for a long time prior to that I had work in a number of galleries and gift shops.  But this? This was a big annual art show that was well attended and drew around a hundred artists from several states and required one to fill up a booth space with one's work.  This was much bigger than I felt I could do, but I sucked it up, gathered my courage, and did it anyway.

Nearly all the artists at this show were very warm and welcoming, and generous with their
After The Harvest - painted October 2014
encouragement.  Their kindness and advice during this show did so much to bolster my confidence, though I still felt like I was way out of my league.  The work these folks could produce was astounding, far better than anything I felt I could do, but they never made me feel like I didn't belong.  I was the new person, the one oddball who was painting birds and animals on feathers, a highly unusual choice of canvas and something that no one had seen before.  I had a lot to learn, but I was there anyway and giving it my all.

There was just one artist who was not so accepting. He was well established in his art career, and his work certainly showed it. I was mesmerized by the beautiful oil paintings in his booth; they were very traditional in style, beautifully rendered and lifelike landscapes and detailed scenes.  He eventually strolled into my booth that weekend, eyeing my work without speaking. I was too timid to say anything more than a brief greeting, but he didn't respond anyway so it didn't matter.  Slowly he leaned in to examine one of the framed painted feathers hanging on the gridwall, considered what he was seeing for a long moment, then slowly leaned back again and thought for a moment more.

Then, without looking at me, he spoke.  "You shouldn't be here," he said.  This is an art show, you don't belong here.  You should be down at the flea market."  And with that, he left my booth.

I was so stunned, I couldn't speak, but it didn't take too terribly long for the thought of Well who does he think HE is? to form in my mind.  I wasn't going to allow myself to be deterred by this one person, and could not let him get to me.  I shook it off and determined to go on with the show.  This one opinion did not matter, not when everyone else was so kind and encouraging.

I still exhibit at this show, and I have attended every year ever since that awkward nervous first exhibition.  My work has grown a fair bit since then, as has my audience.  These little feather paintings I do have been written about in over 40 countries, collected on five continents, and have been collected by many, even a few  politicians and royalty.

The purpose of this post, or moral, if you will?  Actually there are three.  First and foremost, never ever let someone else's opinion define you.  That determination is yours and yours alone.  If what you do happens to be a bit unusual, don't let that stop you from putting it out there.  Uniqueness is a good thing, and if it is your passion and your heart's work, that authenticity comes through and you will find your audience.  Keep at it.  Lastly, when you engage with someone new to the circle, choose your words carefully, don't ever discourage a hopeful new person.  You don't want to run new folks off with an ill-considered thought, and you sure don't want to be remembered for an ugly opinion.  First impressions really do last.

Friday, January 30, 2015

2015's Word of the Year

With the recent writing challenge, I'm striving to post to this blog twice weekly; Tuesdays and Fridays.  Let's see how that goes.

Those of you who read me fairly regularly, either here or on Facebook, know that I've been using Christine Kane's 'Word of the Year' angle of designing and developing focus for the year at hand, instead of doing the old tired New Year's resolutions.  It has transformed how a 12-month period manifests itself for me, and what I learn along the way.

Climbing Sulphur Mtn. in Banff to leave a stone
 in memory of  my brother
Last year's word was 'Adventure!' and I certainly had a few of those. One of the things that word taught me is that no matter the significant situation, even when it's a bad situation, positive things can be had from it. Memorable things. Even a grim matter can be  turned, at least in small part, into a positive thing, and yes, even into a bit of an adventure.

This year begins with many things on my radar, things that must be carefully planned for, and potential things that absolutely cannot be planned for but instead will require enough mental agility for them to be met head-on.  I need to learn many things, develop new skills, brush up on old skills and train physically in order to achieve all that can be achieved in this summer's adventure.

At the end of last year, all this was written down and attentively examined in order to come up with a good focus word for 2015. It didn't take long before a potential word stood out clearly from the other candidates.  Vitality!  That's the one.  Here are a few definitions that really ring out for me - exuberant strength and mental vigor; the state of being strong or active, energy; a lively or energetic
One of the easier climbs here in Washington. I'll be
hitting many hikes and overnighters in the coming
months to increase my strength and stamina.
quality; the capacity to live or develop, also physical or mental vigor; the quality or state of abundant or intense activity; power of enduring.

Many of the synonyms are even more appealing than mere definition:  buoyancy, brightness, cheer, pizazz, sparkle, zest, verve, vivacity, drive, spiritedness, keenness, ebullience, enthusiasm, fire, passion, mettle, power, stamina, fitness, hardiness, health, wellness.

Vitality needs to be present in the work I produce, as well - in imagery and in writing. So, with thoughts on all the matters that lie ahead this summer, much of it quite physical and other aspects involving significant learning and a certain amount of agility in attitude and direction, 'vitality' is certainly a good word to embrace in all its aspects.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

of Water and Water Media

7-Day Blogging Challenge, day 3.  I failed.  A post did not get completed in time to post last night.   That's okay though, because the important thing is, it got me writing again.

A Gathering of Gulls on Oregon's Coast
It is fascinating when a small pebble of an idea, once it is set into motion, develops legs and grows.  I'm getting more comfortable with the colored pencils, graphite, and watercolor pencils obtained for plein aire sketching.  Discoveries along the way have been rewarding, as I learn to mix it up, layer, and experiment.  This image is a result of the ongoing learning, and was produced in studio from photographs taken during a recent trip to Oregon's coast.

Ideas have a way of growing legs though, and now as I wish I had produced this while in Oregon, or at least collected sea water while there, I need to take the idea and try it out locally to see how feasible it might be.

Imagine if when producing the plein aire sketches, paintings and illustrations created in the west highlands and islands, I use a bit of water from local sources in the depiction of places and subject matter, and did so with focused intention and identify it as such.  Examples would be Liathach painted with water from the burn that tumbles down that mountain's side or from Loch Torridon if painted from a distance; Eilean Donan castle at dusk, sketched and painted with water from Loch Duich; other locations from the rivers Ness and Clyde, or depending on the scene and the location, a bit of collected rain water.

The idea has me stewing on all sorts of possibilities.

First things first though, I need to experiment with this locally here in the Pacific Northwest, just to determine if this is something I could do.  How will sea water affect a watercolor painting?  I'm eager to find out.  Roll on Spring, there is a list of things I'd love to try!