Friday, September 30, 2011

Bathing and Climbing

Here's where I've been bathing. The 'waterfall' changes flow depending on the rainfall of the previous few days. It better rain again soon or there's not going to be a shower tomorrow.


I've heard that learning happens in plateaus - we have long periods where we feel like we're not getting any better at a certain thing, but if we keep at it, we'll experience a sudden jump in understanding. Presumably this is the result of all the time taken in the previous plateau to gather experience, or maybe it's that we have been learning slowly, but just haven't noticed the incremental change.

Yesterday I had a sudden leap of understanding with deer trails.

I follow deer trails quite often, but all of a sudden I'm finding them everywhere - in places I've walked past dozens of times. On my last three bushwhacks, there has been zero wading through Salal, breaking through thorny vines or falling through rotten logs. Instead, I'm walking where deer walk. I still have to crouch and jump and push aside the undergrowth, but there is always a sure step for my feet.

This had led to a sudden leap in understanding how deer live. I stoop through the soft mossy hollows under big trees they use for shelter, pause at the cleared-out spots that give a great view of their surroundings, note the side-trails where they dip down to drink from a stream.

It seems that most ravines have two deer trails - one along the top of the ravine, and one cross-slope trail about halfway down. I would imagine the top one is the most used, and the halfway one is more sheltered from the weather, and a good hidden backup to run along if you spot a predator up above.

All the times I've walked along these streambeds I've looked for signs of deer and never found them. Now I realize they've been up above me the whole time, and probably watching me sometimes. (Most of the cross-slope deer trails give an excellent view down to the streams whenever possible.) This makes sense - since every animal needs to drink from the streams, it would be stupid to walk along them.

I also learned that deer can climb just like mountain goats. Seriously! It's ridiculous.

I followed a trail upslope from a river. It was steep, but doable. Then it turned into a cliff. I was pressed right against the earth, pulling myself up with roots and fern bases and salal steams. The dog and I took a lot of breaks, breathing heavily, sometimes pressed up next to each other against the base of a tiny cedar, figuring out how to manage the next route.

To imagine a deer climbing or descending this route blows my mind. They must run straight up or down at some points, because there's no way you could do it without some momentum, or opposable thumbs to grab things, or a man-friend to push you up by the bum (if you're a dog).

Much to learn!

At the top of the deer trail, looking almost straight back down to the river.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

oil paintings

Salal in Shadow - 36" x 24" - Oil

Here are three oil paintings I did this summer. They're the first oil paintings I've ever done. I'm very happy with them. I've done a lot of acrylics, and some half-acrylic half-oil stuff, but this is definitely the way to go for me. I love how you can blend and layer the colours, and the texture of the paint. The wetness works for me, too. Acrylics dry too fast for me to moosh them around, and I end up wasting a lot of paint on my palette because it dries up.

More to come!

Summer Maple - 36" x 24" - Oil

I gotta take these paintings outside and photograph them in indirect light with a tripod. The photos are a little blurry, and you can see too much reflection, so they don't really show the depth of the colour. I'll probably post them again once I get good photos of them.

Blackberry on Sun-Bleached Log - 48" x 36"

I'll soon have an online gallery with my paintings, but if you're ever interested in buying something, send me an email.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

autumn on the mountain

Swimming Hole and Environs.

The rainy season has officially begun. The skies are grey, views of the forest are filtered through a thin curtain of silvery rain.

I've learned a vital lesson to keep myself active and happy in this weather - immerse myself in it. Jump in some kind of water every day, no matter how cold it is. Put on shorts, take off my shoes and hike through the bush, balance across logs, crawl through game trails and get drenched in the droplets hanging from the ferns and salal.

I've been missing these immersive aqueous adventures over the past few dry months. It's good to be cold and cut and wet again.

En route to the local stream.

Recent bush highlights:

Standing in a rainfall of fir needles on a dry windy day. It was like bathing in Tree.

Deep in a ravine where water falls from the forest canopy long after the rain has actually stopped. Realizing that the sky has cleared, but the "rain" is still pouring over me with the same intensity as before.

Crawling through a pile of logs in heavy rain when the dog suddenly goes crazy and starts running around sniffing something. He never smells deer, only bear. The rain is so loud it's impossible to hear anything more than twenty feet away. Waiting and listening, then following the dog to see what we can find.

The daily skinnydip in a rocky pool on Qualicum River, under an old Maple (shown above), and among crayfish.

Watching the dry streambed fill up and start to flow again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

on the walls

There are very few things more rewarding that seeing children engrossed in one of my films.

So I finally have my film, Perfect Detonator, on the walls of a gallery with my paintings, including some big oils, watercolours, and "accidental" artwork that came out of the process of creating my film. I'll be posting more of the paintings in the next week or so.

This was my original intent with the film. I kinda forgot about it after all the years of creating the film. It feels good to remember why I did it, and to see the final product.

Framed Production Painting from "The Perfect Detonator" short film.

I prefer having my films presented in a space that is removed from the normal film and TV viewing experience. I don't want there to be expectations of instant gratification or a handy remote to change the channel if the first 5 seconds doesn't grab you. I want people to watch the film, then have a period silence to think about the film instead of being instantly popped into another film or a TV commercial.

The space of a gallery also lets me share my fascination with the process of creating animated films.

I like that people can walk around before and after the film and see all the incidental art that happened along the way. I showed a few of those things on this blog - background paintings that I found interesting, or a series of classically animated frames, done in pen and ink.

Now that I have the show up, I can document it and shop it around to other galleries in places where I really want it to be shown. I'm excited about that.

"French Creek" - Watercolour, Pen and Ink

An important breakthrough for me is that the show is not limited to one side of my creativity - I'm showing all different media and styles, but everything still looks cohesive. I suppose that's because it all came from the same brain. The wider spread of styles feels good because it's a good representation of how my creative process works. I like to jump around with the work I create. This gives me tremendous freedom to use whatever medium I feel like and know that it's going to work with everything else I'm making. My shows will be more like "This is what I've been up to", rather than "This is a series of paintings," which has limited me in the past.

"If Only You Knew" - watercolour, pen and ink

The other exciting part is that the gallery show finally completes my Perfect Detonator Canada Council of the Arts Grant. I can finally start applying for funding on other projects.

Monday, September 12, 2011

on this morning

Consistently hot and cloudless days. Fewer wasps now than last week. The termites are at peak migration. Plenty of them flying around at dusk every night. The diversity of birds has dropped sharply in the last two weeks. No more Goldfinches, Pileated Woodpeckers, or Northern Flickers. The Stellar Jays are still around, as are the Chickadees and Sparrows. I can't remember if any of those birds stick around this area all year.

The ravens are always around. Quorking in the unseen distance or flying overhead with the wind thrumming loudly through their wingtips.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Same sunflower, different tools. The first is a 4B pencil and watercolour; second is a brush-pen and watercolour. It's amazing how much more expressive a brushstroke is.

Number One Reason My Quality of Life Has Recently Improved:
I only sit at the computer when I have specific work to do. No more twaddling around on the internet. I think this is saving me 2 hours per day, minimum - not including the interruption of focus I used to suffer from constantly checking email.

Number Two and Three Reasons:
Waking up close to sunrise and immediately drawing for 1-3 hours. It feels so good to do my favorite thing in the world, right away. It calms me, gives me perspective, and lets me ease into the rest of my work without resentment. By 8:00 pm, I'm pleasantly tired and don't keep myself awake with coffee, working until midnight or 1:00 am. I fall asleep early, looking forward to waking up early because there's something to look forward to.

Friday, September 2, 2011

streams and lakes of the future

Starting tomorrow, and for the next five weeks, I'll be house- and dogsitting. That means far less swimming, and a lot more bushwhacking. The area I'm staying is very familiar to me, but I don't want to hit the same routes that I usually take.

I'm going to buy a topographic map of the area at a scale that will show the streams, and try to follow as many as I can. Once the rain starts, those will be nice places to check out.

The maps I already have show me some small lakes to tramp out to, as well. Small enough that I can swim around them and get the dog to follow me on the shore.

There are too many thoughts kicking around in my head to get into anything too deeply. By the time I get to blogging, I'm tired of that kind of thinking. The thinking is happening during my long morning drawing sessions, though, so I have lots of non-words things to show.

My new non-computer-wake-up-at-sunrise regime is working like a charm. I can't believe how much more productive I am, and how many more ideas I have.