The Courage to be Blue

March 22nd, 2014

I have used trees as inspiration for my art for a very very long time. It’s a tremendously engaging subject for many reasons, but the tree is also incredibly flexible as a motif. Many designs require a great deal of research, but I must admit, on many occasions, I just sit with a glass of wine and a pencil, start to doodle, and voila, without really much thought, out comes something new.

My blue trees are a case in point. The first one appeared years and years ago. Since then, the ‘collection’ grew whenever I felt the need to ‘get off script’…. Hey, when you make a blue tree, you don’t need to worry about the practical stuff … no holds barred.

So today I will show you a bunch of them, most of which are not on my website, and hope you enjoy!

BLUE ASH  2002  22x41

Blue Ash 2002 22×41″ Wall hanging
This was part of a touring exhibition inspired by rare and endangered trees of Ontario. There were 17 in the collection… and this one was stolen at one of the venues. I made another one to replace it…. but sadly, the first was never recovered.

BLUE TREE 2000 28X30

BLUE TREE 2000 28X30 Wall hanging
This may be my first blue tree, made when I was living in Quebec City, and it’s still there, somewhere….

LITTLE BLUE 3 2010 8X8

LITTLE BLUE #3 2010 8X8″
A blue tree just belongs in the snow at night.

FERTILE GROUND 2 2011 6X6

FERTILE GROUND #2 2011 6X6″
One of the first from a very long Fertile Ground series. I can still remember my excitement at this new direction in my work!

JAP MAPLE 17 2002 13X13

JAPANESE MAPLE #17 2002 13X13″ Wall hanging
From a grouping of ten, all the same size, but all different colours.

BLUE GROVE 2009 24X12

BLUE GROVE 2009 24X12″
Another night sky.

BLUE ROOTS 2009 30X10

BLUE ROOTS 2009 30X10″
An early version from my Fertile Ground series.

COURAGE 2010 24X24

COURAGE 2010 24X24″
The courage to be blue.

What are they about? What can they mean? Do we really need to know? One of the perks of being an artist is the freedom to create your own world. Mine has blue trees in it. What colour are yours?

LITTLE BLUE 2010 12X12

LITTLE BLUE 2010 12X12″
Oh little blue tree! Doesn’t need a thing more to be happy.

 

 

Go out and name your world

March 12th, 2014

Last Monday evening I presented a slide lecture for the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington. The title was “Roots and Rocks: From Darkness to Light”. It was a talk that meandered through various themes I’ve been working on for the past few years – trees, rock, soil, roots and what happens beneath the surface. Sure, Roots and Rocks, obvious title! But why the qualifier, From Darkness to Light?

HARMONY 2014 36X30 s

Harmony 2014 36×30″

A while back I found an intriguing video of my hero, Canadian author Margaret Atwood, being interviewed by Lorna Dueck, in an episode of Context called “God’s Gardeners”.  She was accompanied by Leah and Markku Kostamo who head the Canadian branch of an international environmental organization called A Rocha. It was classic Atwood, filled with her wry wit and plenty to sink one’s teeth into. (I also loved how she nimbly fielded a barrage of cringeworthy questions – I digress, ahem) But the most significant question came at the end. What can each of us do, as individuals, to help make the world a better place?

Markku offered three simple suggestions:
1.   Know where your food comes from
2.   Know where your garbage goes to
3.   Go out and name your world

The first two points, although harder to put in practice than they sound, are no-brainers, elegantly tying together many issues of rampant consumerism that is eating up our beautiful Earth. But it’s the third point that hit home with me, and I am going to tell you why.

Go out and name your world. As a horticulturalist and science-a-holic, I love learning the names of the wild things I come across. A snazzy new plant? What can it be? I get a good look, grab a leaf, and head home in a hurry to look it up online or in one of my books. Once it’s got a name, I can’t help but ponder: What is its life story? Where else does it grow and where does it come from? What bugs does it host, what animal does it feed? What do its seeds and flowers look like? Does it have medicinal properties?  It all begins with naming. And I would never have met this plant had I not first ‘gone out’ and explored my surroundings. I would never have had the opportunity to love it.

Lorraine and rare Columbo plant

Me and the rare Columbo plant enjoying a staring contest at Cartwright Sanctuary near Dundas, ON.

However, many things in our natural world are not so easy to name. They can be too small to see. They can be hidden deep inside the bark of a tree or up in the branches beyond reach. They can be nocturnal or secretive or shy and complicated. And they can be buried and tangled deep in the soil.

N EW LIFE 2007 12X12 copy 2

New Life 2007 12×12″

Enter our biologists:  dedicated individuals who devote the full force of their knowledge, time and resources to uncharted territory. Where would we be without these scientists, naming and knowing more and more of the wonders of our universe?

But herein lies a problem. Scientists work hard… but their skill set may not always include effective communication beyond what is necessary to spread the word amongst other scientists. And really, we can’t expect them to do it all, can we? In comes Opportunity! With a science background, love of nature, and passion for imagery, could I become a visual spokesperson though which a scientist can share discoveries? Yes. This is what I want to do.

This is why I called my lecture Roots and Rocks: From Darkness to Light.  To me, art making is an all-encompassing and spiritually fulfilling quest. I hope to leave the world a better place: to bring to light these hidden worlds in such a way that others can see, feel and marvel as I do.

Because we can’t love something until it has a name.

SHADOW 2 2008 24X18

“Even the darkness is not dark to You.
The night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to You.”
Psalm 139:12

 

White Pines with Cat

March 4th, 2014

The light hearted couple who requested this commission already had three of my pieces and several of my husbands’. They’d just bought a property in cottage country, Ontario, and wanted a wall piece in their large dining room, where they entertain a lot. They had spent a lifetime canoeing and camping extensively in all parts of Ontario, so it was clear from the outset that the subject matter would be White Pines of Georgian Bay. However as animal lovers and devoted cat owners, they had another request: they would like birds, and a cat, somewhere in the picture.

WHITE PINES WITH CAT 2014S

White Pines with Cat 2014 24×48″
(can you spot the cat?)

I love animals as much as I love a challenge, and this was not the first time I’d been asked to incorporate wild creatures. For one large commission I made in 2008, the client wished for all the genera of creation: plants, fungi, bugs, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. The toughest part was the mammals…. how to make it all work without looking like a Disney production? Plus the space was filling up! The solution?  To curl a sleeping chipmunk into a crevice underground. Everyone was happy:

7 Days of Creation 2008 sm jpeg

The Seven Days of Creation 2008 – Lots of animals here!

7 Days serpent and ants

Fish, ants, snake….

CHIPMUNK - 7 DAYS

…. and chipmunk, in hibernation

Taking a cue from that experience, I embraced my cat lovin’ side, and settled a sleeping feline at the foot of a White Pine in the piece:

The Cat

This cat is not worried about the weather.

The Mighty Mitochondria

February 22nd, 2014
Detail of Microcosm

Detail of Microcosm

I get all kinds of commissions, from very large (17 feet), to very small (6×12”). Sometimes a client simply wants a piece that ‘looks like’ one I’ve already made, but most projects are far more complicated. I rarely turn one down though. Thinking back, some of the most memorable, cherished and not, moments of my art career came to me via commissions.

So, just before Christmas 2013, I got a call from the wife of a retired Professor of Biochemistry who was about to enjoy his 80th birthday. Knowing of my interest in the sciences, she wondered if I might create a wall piece to celebrate her husband’s research in mitochondrial biogenesis. Now I had heard of mitochondria in my Science courses, ummmm…. literally back in the last century, but couldn’t, at that moment, recall a single thing about them. My right brain raced as we discussed practical matters like size, shape and timing.

Then I thought, what the heck… that’s what Google is for, right? And I love abstracts. Thus began the steep learning curve from mitochondrially-challenged to mitochondrially-knows-just-enough-to-make-a-wall-hanging.

Just so all that knowledge doesn’t go to waste, let’s get up to speed on mitos. They are small, really small: less than 1 micrometer in size. They live inside most of the cells of living organisms. They are often described as “cellular power plants” because they generate most of the cell’s supply of energy. Electron micrograph photos show globular forms filled with parallel strands (threads! Yes!), and either alone or nestled amongst others of their kind. They can both divide and recombine. The reasons scientists are interested in them are many – with implications for health, aging, growth and even memory.

Some of this was coming back to me. Could it be my own mitochondria were dancing?

Here is a single mitochondrion.

I’ve always trusted in my ability to rise up to the occasion, however happy or dire. For this project, as with most others, there was research – reading, gathering images, making rough sketches, pondering techniques. I drifted off at night thinking about possible layouts.  After a few weeks, it was time to commit to paper. With a few attempts and some tweaking, this was the result:

A coloured pencil sketch of Microcosm

A coloured pencil sketch of Microcosm

The colours came from electron micrograph images of the interiors of cells. I wanted to show all the energy at the moment of division, so one of the mitos broke out from the border. The dark background provided an atmosphere of mystery while also creating a foil for the bright neon colours.

I sent the drawing off to the client with bated breath. Normally after viewing a first attempt, the client comes back to me with all kinds of suggestions and changes, but not this lady! … It was a solid ” GO FOR IT!”

The next challenge was technique. This design was quite different from recent work and would require more attention to the strong clean lines, to stand clear from all the background details. For the solution, I harkened back to 2002 and 2009, recalling two series of Seed designs I’d made with the same sharp edges (image below). Great! A precedent!

SEED - KENTUCKY COFFEE 2003 17X25

Kentucky Coffee Seed 2003 17×25″
Here I used a collage technique that provided a nice crisp contrast with the background

I cut the globe shapes in fabric, leaving the edges bare and crisp, filling in the centres with other fabrics and clippings. Once the globe shapes were done, I added the interior strands using strips of a semi-transparent print. They looked good but a bit washed out. Would couching a contrasting yarn around them create more contrast? Oh yeah! And it was pleasant, meditative work, not at all the chore I had anticipated. The design did change somewhat – it always does as I’m working on the real thing. That bottom mito needed to be whole, not cut off.

A real closeup

A real closeup, since you asked….

Then came the finishing: backing, batting, quilting, sleeve…. Ta-da!!! Six weeks after that first call, “Microcosm” was delivered, rolled up in a cardboard box we hoped would escape detection until Presentation Day, in early February.  The final word?  Instant recognition, and very well received.

MICROCOSM 2014 36X19S

Microcosm 2014 36×19″ Fabric wall hanging by Lorraine Roy

 

 

On the Rock: Merging Art and Ecology – a new exhibition!

February 17th, 2014
THE OUTCROPPING 2014 24X48 copy

THE OUTCROPPING 2014 24X48

Hello everyone,

Thought I would post a short note while I wait for my very cold studio to warm up. For weeks, it’s been in the minus tens here in Southwestern Ontario. The hot summer and cozy fall feel like distant memories and we are all longing for a touch of spring. The snow on either side of our drive is neck deep.

Perfect time to give you the scoop on an upcoming group show, soon to open at our local Carnegie Gallery in Dundas.

Just in the past year, I’ve had the great pleasure of learning about an international Christian organization called A Rocha. Their mandate is to engage in scientific research, environmental education and community-based conservation projects, and they are open to all faiths and cultures. A new A Rocha centre is becoming established in Ontario, with a 95-acre rural property in Flamborough, just south of Freelton (a pleasant 20 minute drive from my home). Cedar Haven Farm has both wild and cultivated acreages, as well as a historic house, a pond, a few barns, and animal enclosures.

FENCEROW 1 2014 24X24 copy

FENCEROW 1 2014 24X24

What better way to promote this organization than with art? We decided to approach ten artists, all working in different mediums, with an invitation: to visit the property and create unique visual responses to the land, with the results to be shown in an exhibition. The artists were delighted with the idea, and Carnegie Gallery accepted our proposal with great enthusiasm. The exhibition runs from March 7 to 30, with an opening reception at 7:30 on March 7.

Of course, I am fully involved with the project, and so is my photographer husband. I will tell you more about the other artists in a future post, but for now I wanted to share my resulting work. On my many visits in three seasons, I was most taken with the way wild areas and fencerows contrasted with the cultivated fields. Bedrock and swampland prevented full use of all the property for agriculture, but a system of trails made all the land accessible. The photos in this post are of the three works I made for the exhibition. I am looking forward to seeing it all come together on March 7!

WILD APPLE 2014 24X36 copy
WILD APPLE 2014 24X36

The Charity Fundraiser: A good idea for artists?

February 9th, 2014

Hello everyone,

I was asked by the Canadian Artists Representation of Ontario (CARFAC) to write about my experience in donating artwork for Charity Fundraisers. There has been considerable discussion about this topic over the past many years, pro and con, and I was very happy to throw my own opinions into the mix. You may have seen this article which has been circulating on Social Media. While I agree with many of the points in the article, I continue to donate in a way that is working for me. I would love to know what your experience is, and how you are dealing with the issues. Let’s have some discussion!

Here is the interview:

- What was your experience with fundraisers over the years?

I have donated work to all kinds of organizations with all kinds of setups for auctioning, from silent to live to online. Results varied wildly from my work being withdrawn for not reaching the starting bid, to selling way over its estimated value. I was getting up to a dozen requests per year (often still do). Over time, it became evident that saying Yes to each one was spreading my generosity a bit too thin.

I now participate in three kinds of fundraisers:

  1. One event  for which I make a special piece each year, because I believe in the organization and want to support it to my utmost
  2. Two to four yearly auctions that give back up to 50% of sales, for which I donate older works
  3. Timeraiser, that pays the full requested value of accepted works

I prefer donating my work to giving money – it’s a more personal way to give back to my community. Plus, I enjoy attending the auctions – when they are well done, they are a lot of fun.

St Ignatius Bean was made specially for the Ignatius Jesuit Centre Silent Auction in 2013

- Have you noticed any negative or positive effects of fundraisers on the sale and value of your artwork (outside of fundraisers)?

I am unconvinced that exposure via fundraisers is beneficial for my career, but by the same token I am equally unconvinced that by participating, I significantly reduce the value of my work. I do believe the public and collectors admire and value artists for their generosity, as they should.

I make a living from my work so I have a vested interest in maintaining its value. I have not noticed any effect from participating in fundraisers one way or the other. I’m secure in the value of my work, and I’m glad there are ways for people to possibly acquire a piece of mine if they can’t afford the full price. I make sure all parties know that I NEVER donate new work, except for the special event mentioned above. Many people have contacted me after auctions, filled with joy, which makes me happy too. Older work would otherwise go into storage, and what use is that to anyone?