NINE SKETCHES FROM SYDNEY TO ORANGE
A guru told me that the conscious mind is the dream setter, the unconscious mind, the dream getter. I interpret this as the suggestion that it is important to move between the realms of awareness and unawareness, of control and surrender and to trust that when we shift our focus to productive dreams, our spirit gets on board and nudges us along in the right direction. I impulsively booked a ticket to Australia to look newly at patterns familiar and unfamiliar, at colours with baby eyes, and to check to see if my bathtub was draining in reverse. These sketches arose from a train trip from Sydney into the Blue Mountains and beyond to the Central Tablelands. A 1908 Edwardian cottage is the setting for painting, writing and dreaming. These sketches were made on linen boards, with the intention of letting the bare boards inform the drawings and the Australian-made acrylics, in their subtle Australian hues, made a record of a dream-like winter.
PERFECT PLACES TO HANG OUT IN THE WOODS
An Inukshuk is a stone landmark used as a milestone by the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic. Though varying in shape and size, most are comprised of rocks placed and balanced on top of one another, and symbolize safety, hope and friendship on the barren tundra of the Canadian North.
In Japanese, the pile of rocks is called "obos."
"If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi." (Andrew Juniper, from his book "Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence")
The Bugaboos are a grandly inaccessible mountain range tucked within the Purcells, near the Canadian Rockies. You can get to them in a helicopter, and so we embarked on adventure called heli-painting. The helicopter scooped us up at the Bugaboo Lodge and dropped us on plateaus, in meadows and at the feet of glaciers, where we painted in the sun and sleet. That's the thing about the mountains; if you don't like the weather, wait a minute.
In two summers I completed a dozen or so location paintings in acrylic. It's been a formidable privilege to be in that place and to paint there with my Dad. He pushed me up the hill, pushed me in the most important ways - to reach for a heightened expression.
"Step by step, a path. Stone by stone, a cathedral."
It was hotter than anything and I planned my days around the shady lanes of the late afternoon. My borrowed bicycle, "Rilke" provided the breezes -- I rode around Lucca's walls until the sun was gone. A few steps from my ancient house, I found an art supply shop with some linen boards in European sizes. They were square and natural, glowing in their linen-ness - the french-grey neutrals one fantasizes about for optimal glowing mid-chroma colour work. It was as if the sketches that were to emerge there were half-done in the shop - the warm grey of that linen seducing from down the street. I bought every last one, which was fourteen. And so fourteen location sketches came home to New York in my carry-on.
"Oh mysterious world of all light, thou hast made a light shine within me, and I have grown in admiration of thy antique beauty, which is the immemorial youth of nature." (Paul Gauguin)
How does one get her brush around a subject so big (literally), with so much legacy (Canada), with my Dad, a mountain-master for a companion? Check known skills at the trail head. Carry paintboxes, water and sandwiches. Close mouth at mountain awesomeness, put head down and wobble through inclement weather sketches, sundrying gradations and tender tips from a master Dad. We hiked and painted steadily for a week at a time, stalking the locations of J.E.H Macdonald, who painted there for seven autumns between 1924 and 1930. We returned to Lake O'Hara for three consecutive summers.
Yoho National Park sits nestled on the western slope of the continental divide, in southeastern British Columbia. The name Yoho comes from the Cree word expressing amazement. Yoho and all of the Canadian Rockies Parks are a world heritage site. "I had a little cabin, with cedar walls and floors, with mountains in the window, and spruces at the door."(J.E.H. Macdonald, journal entry, 1927)