Cape Breton Landscapes: Small Watercolours

I was aiming for two dozen small paintings as I had more than two dozen landscapes in mind for this series. I got to 25 but decided that I would include only the ones that really spoke to me and that landed me at 20. Still, not bad! So, here are four more – there are some others two posts back. None of these pictures show the images mounted which all these are now. Next post will show more scenes but mounted on the cradled board. I also have 5 sets of cards (5 different paintings) and will probably make more.

From near (my own road in Goose Cove) to far (Margaree River), these little images remind me of the dramatic beauty of the land and water here in Cape Breton.

Some of the scenes are of my personal favourite places where I hang out a lot depending on the season.

Others are familiar and not too far and include fond connections such as Danny’s beautiful sailboat in this scene.

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Handwoven Meditation Blankets

In the early winter I wove four meditation blankets using organic cotton and bamboo in undyed and unbleached yarn. I then dip-dyed them in hand-mixed dyes, a rather nerve-wracking task given how much work had gone into the weaving and finishing. Fortunately, they came out very well with the bamboo adding a shimmering sheen. The medallions (some round and some square) are hand embroidered with bamboo yarn on organic cotton muslin and then dip-dyed as well. Two blankets are in the Gallery Shop of the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design and another two are available in my studio shop.

Thanks to Linda Wright for the photography and to Patrizia Monnerjahn for the modelling.

meditation blanket, handweaving, cape breton, nova scotia artisan, hand dyeing, organic cotton, bamboo yarn
Meditation Blanket
meditation blanket, handwoven, hand dyed, cape breton artisan, nova scotia
Meditation Blanket in Gold
meditation blanket, cape breton, handwoven, hand dyed, nova scotia, artisan
Meditation Blanket
meditation blanket, handwoven, hand dyed, cape breton artisan, nova scotia
Meditation Blanket
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New Watercolour Series – Small Landscapes

One of the joys of living in a UNESCO World Heritage Site is immediate access to gorgeous landscapes. While the Cabot Trail offers spectacular views, often it is the lesser known places that inspire me. Despite this, I hadn’t painted for almost a year. When I felt the pull to paint again, I knew I didn’t want to paint in the same way. The last large painting I completed took me about 25-30 hours. How could I take a lighter, looser approach? After doing some loosening up exercises, I started painting on small pieces of watercolour paper, 5″ x 5″. I have never painted in square format before, nor have I painted this small. But it seems perfect for working differently. I have painted 16 of this little ones so far – not all are successful, but I think many are moving in the right direction. This is the first one I did, with a few samples of others.

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Studio and Showroom Opening Summer 2020: Saturday and Sunday, July 18-19, 10 am to 5 pm

Please join me at my studio & showroom opening on the weekend of July 18-19 at 1886 Meadow Road, Goose Cove, just off the Cabot Trail in St. Ann’s – 10 minutes from the Gaelic College. There are new paintings, new weaving, including meditation shawls, tea towels, scarves, cards and more. Munchies and libation will be provided. I look forward to seeing you!

COVID-19 Alert: Social distancing will be practiced. Only 4 people will be allowed in the studio/showroom at one time. Hand cleanser will be available. Following the notices of the Nova Scotia Public Health Officer, masks are recommended – bring your own if you can.

Studio open hours will be Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 10-4 following the open house. Visit by appointment at other times. Payment accepted: cash, e-transfers, cheques.

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Assembling Bags on a Rain Day

As expected, torrential rain came down last night and all morning today. The brook became more and more full and raged forth, covering the bridge by mid-morning. As soon as I opened a window or a door, the sound of the rushing water pushed in. Gracie and I got soaked on our walk. It seemed a good idea to spend the rest of the day indoors.

I spent the afternoon and early evening sewing the handwoven bags, at last! (I had woven the fabric for the bags last fall but didn’t have enough time to weave the straps. I wove them quickly a week ago.) By the end of the evening, I had assembled three bags (seen below in the evening light), each with a large pocket inside. I need to get some large snaps for them, but otherwise these three are done. I have three more to complete. They are sturdy large bags and can hold a lot and are versatile – could be ideal book bags for example!

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Grounds Work Day

Last week (Tuesday night and all day Wednesday) we had a major snowstorm – a good 8 inches of heavy snow. I walked out with Gracie on Wednesday evening just around dusk in a winter wonderland – it’s particularly fixed in my mind since we encountered a lynx just 25 metres ahead of us. It leapt across the road in such a cat-like fashion with its long back legs and huge feet. We kept walking until we came to its tracks in the fresh snow – big cat footprints. I looked off to the left into the woods where it had gone and saw it sitting there – it jumped up and headed deeper into the trees. That was my first sighting of a lynx.

Two days later, most of the latest snowfall was gone. Friday was a warm dry and cloudy day – perfect for preparing the gardens around the property. I went to town on Thursday and bought cubes of compressed earth, bags of compost and other supplies. Friday morning started with nailing together the wood for two small beds, one on either side of the studio door. Gracie was especially proud of that accomplishment as you can see in the first pic!

After filling the new beds with soil and compost, I took a break and chopped some kindling. Gracie was concerned when I dropped a glove . . .

The large rock garden below the studio got a good raking, refreshed soil and compost and the back yard got raked. A few other small beds got some upgrading. As I moved my attention to the front yard where my raised vegetable beds are located, I decided to move one of the compressed soil cubes in that direction (you can see them above – cube shapes covered in black plastic). Now, these cubes are not light – in fact, I can’t pick one up at all. So, I rolled the cube, as far as one can roll a cube, from one side to another. It was slow and hard work. But the darned thing got away from me on the downward angle of the path to the front yard. Off it went, merrily rolling over and over, bouncing and turning as it veered off to the right, down the bank and all the way into the brook at the bottom! It plays like a little video in my brain. Both Gracie and I stood there and just watched it. I knew it was going to rain the next day, so there was nothing for it – I couldn’t leave it there. I had an idea to haul it back up in an old lobster bin I have, but what was I thinking – impossible. I ended up opening the cube bag, and emptying the soil bit by bit into another bag and hauling each load up one at a time. It took five trips. Made for a memorable afternoon. The second to last picture shows the view down the bank to the brook, the path that the runaway cube took – I took the picture after I hauled it all back up.

The last picture shows the raised beds with their topped up soil and raked yard. I also cleared the small bank to the right of those beds which were covered with raspberry canes and other rough growth.

It’s hard to explain how much joy I get from the bulbs coming up – all their hardy bright colours – they first appeared out of snow. I have one other garden just below my front door that needs to be completely rebuilt. However, it has many bulbs coming up and I decided I would leave it till the bulbs have done their thing.

Big thanks to Gracie for helping me laugh my way through the day – she’s not a very good supervisor – easily distracted and her judgment is questionable. But she certainly is a great companion.

In the Buddhist tradition that I follow, there is a ritual of cleaning up the meeting room and other facilities in the temple or meeting space – it is called Temple Cherishing Day. This was my Cape Breton and Meadowbrook Cherishing Day!

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Peonies & Roses – Final or very close

Things have moved along quite quickly with the painting in this last stage. I didn’t post after the third rose because it had problems at that point and I needed to fix them. So, here is the perhaps final version of the painting.

Peonies & Roses, 30″ x 20″, watercolour

I’m still a bit too close to it to “see” it, if you know what I mean. But, hey, it’s done and that’s something. There is always the fear that I might do something that will ruin the whole thing but I kept holding that thought outside my work. I might do some things differently another time. I also might make some adjustments tomorrow or in a few days when I get a fresh look at it.

During this painting, I occasionally had the radio on and was listening to pandemic updates when I wasn’t listening to music on Spotify. But in the last few days, the tragic hard-to-fathom madness that led to so much death and destruction in mainland Nova Scotia, permeated the airwaves in my studio from time to time. The flowers seem almost an offering as spring is well on its way. Peonies are so beautiful and the blossoms last such a very short time. Roses are so delicate and breathe such sweetness our way. Let’s take a deep breath and breathe out for all those suffering.

Time to start thinking about the next painting! Thanks for dropping by!

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Large Scale Peonies & Roses – Second Rose and More . . .

I got thinking about the composition and how I want to finish this painting. So, I took an even lighter touch on the second rose and will continue lightly with the third one which is already started. I washed out the top right corner and integrated the background on that side. I’ve learned more about how to paint yellow with these roses, but it is a serious challenge. I wanted to keep them as an understatement next to the peonies and I think that is working. I haven’t quite decided what to do with the top left corner . . . tomorrow’s decision and surprise!

We had a blizzard last night and into this morning. Heavy wet snow blanketing everything. It is beginning to melt this evening and hopefully won’t last too long. It did permit me to have one more snowshoe hike on a break from painting.

Thanks for tuning in!

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Large Scale Peonies & Roses – first rose

Watercolour, 30″ x 20″ in progress

Well, I think it works, it and the bud below. Let’s see what the next two roses bring . . .

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Experimenting with Embroidery

I wanted to do some embroidery on the flap of those bags I started last fall. It’s been quite a while since I did any needle work like that, so I thought I would do a sampler. I liked the idea of working with various fall leaf images and I had some flattened leaves I had collected, oak, maple, and others. Did some sketching, picked up some embroidery supplies and did this sampler.

It’s kinda fun. But, let me tell you, I wouldn’t try to do this on a bag flap – wayyyy too much work. However, the outline of the leaf might be doable. We’ll see . . . perhaps a lino print image with fabric ink might be better . . .

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