Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Lay of the Land




View of Naarden by Jacob Van Ruisdael (Image source Wikimedia commons)

Although I have been focused on making collages just lately, I am not immune to the lure of the landscape. Landscape painting has always been my first love, and every now and then I see a place, frame it in my mind, and think to myself, "Wow, that would make a nice painting!", and hope that I'll get around to actually painting it. This time I decided to make the effort to do just that.

Every morning and every evening when I am either taking out or bringing home our sheep, I walk up the rise behind our farm to our back pasture. There is a view of the village of St. Chrysostome from the top of the hill which I find especially appealing. It puts me in mind of some of the landscape paintings of the seventeenth century Dutch masters. The image is dominated by the sky as the horizon line is set low and the spires of the village church are seen in the distance. The overall effect is one of great space and is a reminder that humanity's place in the world is really rather small. Well, at least that's how I see it.
The spires of St. Jean-Chrysostome from my back pasture (photo © the artist)

It felt strange to sit down in front of the easel again. I haven't touched my oil paints for many months. Nevertheless, I am finding the process familiar but also invigoratingly new. Here is the tonal drawing on canvas for my new landscape:

I don't always go to such lengths to establish the general areas of a painting but, as I haven't painted in so long, I dread screwing things up. I decided to be extra careful rather than risk wasting a perfectly good (and expensive) linen canvas.

So much of the painting is taken up by the sky that the sky really requires a great deal of attention. People often look at the sky and see blue, white and a little grey. Careful observation will show that the sky is so much more than that. The photo below shows my efforts in colour mixing for the clouds and sky. Note the ochres, browns and pinks on the paper towel.
This is where I finished today. The painting is blocked in from the darkest areas to midtones and the general colour scheme is established. You can't see the church towers because I haven't put them in yet- there is so much to do before I get down to that level detail. I'll be back at it again tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How to Pick Up Chicks

If you have been lured to this blog by what you perceive to be a promise of dating advice, you are bound to be disappointed. Sorry, but these chicks are of the small, peeping, fluffy variety, not the thong wearing bar hags you may have been expecting. So if this is the case, by all means, go elsewhere. Please!

Chicken Tuesday

Last Tuesday we got our thirty broiler chicks and twelve Guinea keets from the Co op. The decision was made in the spring to raise these meat birds organically and on pasture as much as possible. Pasture is no problem; we have that in abundance. Organic grain? That was a whole different bag of mash. Although we have some local organic grain producers in the area and one organic mill, I could not find anyone who could supply us with smaller quantities of bagged feed. It was half a ton or nothing. In the end we had to order the grain from a mill in Berwick, Ontario. Not that I have anything against the town of Berwick, but it would be nice to be able to get locally sourced feed and not have the added carbon footprint of all those extra kilometres. A girl can dream...
Chicks and keets Photo © the artist

In spite of a few mishaps and a couple of untimely deaths, the birds now appear to be thriving. Originally the keets and the chicks were supposed to be separated by a fence. As you can see by the above photo, the chicks and keets had other ideas. We gave up on the fence and are letting them eat out of the same feeder. And boy do they like to eat!

So, how do you pick up chicks? "Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?" isn't likely to work on them. I suggest you scoop them up gently using both hands....

What's on the Easel

I wonder if being obsessed with sheep is a classifiable psychiatric disorder? If so, I may very well have it. To be fair, I have recently completed some landscape collages, but I just can't seem to shake this fascination with sheep. This morning I finished my newest painted paper collage. The subject is yet again my friend Anna-Maria's beautiful purebred Border Leicester ram, Julius Caesar.
Pencil drawing for "All Hail Caesar" ©2010 Alyson Champ


Above is the preparatory drawing to work out the basic composition. Below is my work table with the work in progress.

At least it looks like I'm working hard. Photo ©the artist

And the finished collage: All hail Caesar!



All Hail Caesar - 8x10 painted paper collage on board © 2010 Alyson Champ

Friday, July 2, 2010

Summertime, and the Living Isn't Easy

We don't grow cotton here in St. Crazy but the soybeans in our front field are looking pretty good, and I'm sure if I were to take a stroll down to the river I could probably see some fish jumpin'. The problem is... I just don't have time!
It must be a holdover over from the many years I spent as a student that my brain is still governed by the academic calendar. The New Year begins in September, not January, and summer is a time for those other three R's: Recreation, Relaxation, and Rest. Of course, this totally doesn't jibe with the farming calendar which begins to get busy in the spring with the arrival of lambs and continues to get ever busier as we progress into summer. We've done vaccinations, castrations, deworming, and tail docking. We've brought in new laying hens, but haven't yet (ahem) 'dispatched' some of the old laying hens, and soon we'll be getting our broiler chicks and Guineas. We've re-fenced the chicken run, turned and planted the garden, stacked next winter's fire wood, are currently in the process of cleaning and refurbishing the barn, and soon we will have to put in hay and straw. All the while, of course, we do the regular feeding, tending, cleaning and WEEDING. O Lord, let us not forget the weeding.
Our more or less weed-free veg garden

I'm not really complaining. Our lifestyle is a matter of choice, and there really is something very satisfying about putting in a good solid day's work. And speaking of work...

What's on the Easel

In spite of all the other labour, yes, I continue to work in the studio most days, and there actually is something on the easel! I have, I'm proud to say, just finished my first collage landscape.
This drawing for Port Daniel Lighthouse I have already posted back when the collage was in its planning phase. Here is the finished work:

Port Daniel Lighthouse- 20x24 painted paper collage on panel, © 2010 Alyson Champ

I'll get my rest and recreation in November.