Sunday, April 29, 2007

Day 28 - April 29, 2007

I'm in Chicago waiting for my final flight home. I managed to make it through several goodbyes without becoming a total sap. We left at 9 am this morning for the Lynchburg Airport. Anthony and Janice drove Sara and I to the airport and after lots of hugs and some tears Sara and I got on the same plane to Charlotte. What a nice way to leave, a send-off and a friend to fly part way home with. Sara and I parted ways in Charlotte, she heading for NY on her way to Cape Cod and me to Chicago.

My fellowship at the Virginia Center For The Creative Arts was an awesome experience. I think that what I produced there in 4 weeks would have taken me 4 to 5 months in my studio. I have come away from there feeling very validated as a professional visual artist and with lots of new knowledge and information. The best part were the connections that I made with creative people from many areas of the world. Yesterday, with the help of my dear artist friends I managed to remove my canvases from the studio walls, roll and wrap them. Everything is well packaged and waiting in the studio for UPS to pick them up on Tuesday, May 1st. They will arrive in Vancouver on May 10th so if I'm looking stressed in the next 10 days you'll understand why. I feel like I've wrapped my babies in cardboard and put them on a bus! I've really appreciated all of the emails with good wishes that many of you have sent. Thanks for the support. A lot of you have said that you are anxious to see my new paintings. I just want to warn you that it may be awhile before this happens, they will be in transit and then they are too large to put on display in my current studio unless I do some major clearing. It will take me some time to figure out what to do with them and how to go about photographing them. My hope is to continue this coastal series and to secure an exhibit for them.

I'm sure that it will take me a few days to rest up and digest this experience. I'll see some of you after that. Thanks for the support.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Day 26 - April 27, 2007

I'm feeling sad today, doing a lot of things for the final time. I'm in my studio but finding it difficult to work and of course I have the laptop so have been online for quite awhile.

I'm so excited about coming home but really sad to be leaving. It will be tough to take my paintings off of the walls tomorrow. Here are some more photos from my open studio yesterday.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Day 25 - April 26, 2007

It was much cooler when I woke this morning and a good thing it was as Anthony and I went for a run. I'm a poor runner when it is hot and humid.

Today I am working on my paintings on paper and clearing the studio a bit for my open studio this afternoon. I've made space so that people can get back from the work, two of my paintings are quite large, the diptych covering an entire wall. Cora and Dorothy stopped by at lunch as they leave early. Cora looks after the studios and makes sure that we have all necessary equipment and Dorothy makes our rooms clean and comfortable. They are lovely and I'm going to miss them as well as everyone else who work here. The VCCA employees make life easy for us so that we are able to fully immerse ourselves in our creative endeavours. I haven't cooked a meal for 5 weeks!

This evening Richard Wollman will read some of his poetry and Ann LeClair will read from her book Silence. My day in a nutshell; paint until early afternoon, host an open studio with wine and snacks, followed by dinner with great company and readings afterward.

Day 24 - April 25, 2007

I was up early and went for a swim with Bobbie. By 8:15am when we left Sweet Briar it was a lovely temperature but it was rising quickly. It was the beginning of a hot and humid day with a forecast for thundershowers. My canvas was on the wall prepped and staring at me when I entered the studio. I had no vision of what should be on its surface. I turned on the air onditioning and lay on the bed enjoying my completed paintings and reading Gary's poems. (Each studio has a bed and there are 3 kitchens in the studio barn as well as a few showers so you can work around the clock or be anti-social if that is what you prefer.) I decided that I needed to do something washy and loose and by the end of the day had completed 2 paintings on watercolour paper, was part way through 2 more and had done some sketches of the trees on the VCCA property. Not bad for an off day! In my Vancouver studio I alternate between acrylic on canvas and watercolour on paper and I think that I've been missing the feel of the paper. It was perfect thing to do.

I am starting to mentally prepare myself for my return to the real world. That might explain why I am reluctant to start a major piece. I've always found it difficult to get back to a painting after leaving it for a period of time and it will take some time for my paintings to find their way to Vancouver.

I've talked to several of the people here about their experiences saying goodbye, leaving and returning to their regular lives. Most of them feel that it takes awhile for them to decompress, to be around people again and to talk about their experience.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Day 23 - April 24, 2007

Today was another perfect day that started with a run at Sweet Briar College after which I completed my moody painting, stretched a new canvas and which ended with a very social evening.

After dinner we gathered in the living room for champagne and chocolates while listening to Christina Askounis read from the novel that she is currently writing. It was very intriguing and I'll anxiously await its completion eager to find out what will happen next.

Poet Gary Short read several of his beautiful poems, 2 of them new and some from his published books "10 Moons and 13 Horses" and "Flying Over Sonny Liston". I am very moved by his work.

Day 22 - April 23, 2007

At breakfast this morning some of the writers were discussing using a laptop to write and the possibility of losing work if it wasn't adequately backed up or copied. I understand how devastating this possibility can be as I lost 400+ amazing photos of the mural project that Lynn and I did in an Alzheimer's ward a few years ago.

I headed down the lovely path to the studio barn anxious to work on my current painting. As I was dabbing away I became very agitated and upset. I realized how attached I am to what I have done here and started thinking about the risk that I am taking shipping my paintings home. They are much too large to put in a suitcase!

This evening I prepped my invites to the open studio that I will have on Thursday. They are tiny coastal paintings that I will place in each of the fellow's mailboxes. I love how they turned out. I've titled my opening Ebb and Flood.

Day 20 & 21 - April 21 to 22, 2007

I have gotten behind on writing as I am into my final week here and don't want to waste a minute. I've accomplished a lot but have much more to do before I leave. There are final week details to cover such as thank you notes, an open studio, collecting contact information so that I can stay in touch with the other fellows, shipping arrangements and I still haven't watched Rodney's film.

I'm spending long hours in the studio and it has been blissful. I painted some lovely clouds and then was inspired to cover them with drippy washes of paint. It was exciting and I like the effect. The weather has gotten quite warm here so one lovely afternoon I parked myself on the grass and did a painting of one of the grand old trees. I've also done some small washy pieces out of doors. When I return to the VCCA I'll plan to spend some time painting plein air as the wonderful trees, colourful rolling hills and Constable skies are perfect subjects.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Day 19 - April 20, 2007

Today Tom Batt, Curator of Exhibitions at The Academy of Fine Arts in Lynchburg toured the visual arts studios. He and Will Holub, the resident artist here who arranged the visit had positive reactions to what I have created here so far. I don't know if anything will come of the visit but I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with them about my work.

I've completed my diptych and today stretched and gessoed a new piece of canvas to the wall (not so big this time). While it was drying I parked myself on the lawn and did a loose graphite and acrylic sketch of one of the amazing trees here. It was a beautiful day today and is still in the mid-fifties tonight. It is supposed to get up to 78F by Sunday!

Canyon is leaving tomorrow so she, Jan and myself went to a highly recommended restaurant in Lynchburg called Dish. It was delicious, I think that I enjoyed it as much as our local Ocean 617. They had Maytag Blue cheese on the menu. I brought one home as I thought that it would be fun to give it to Ken.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Day 17 - April 18, 2007

Ten beautiful red roses arrived for me today, one for every wonderful year. Today is the tenth anniversary of my first date with John. Up until this art residency we had not been apart for more then a few days. Even though we are thousands of miles apart he is as encouraging and supportive as always. When I call home frustrated with the way my work is going and I tell him of my creative woes and aching muscles he makes me laugh and gives me strength to keep going. As my time here ticks away and I feel like I won't accomplish as much as I had hoped to he reminds me of how great I am doing. John loves that I am an artist and every time that I want to quit and get an ordinary job he gives me a very effective pep talk. Thank you John!

Day 15 & 16 - April 16 & 17, 2007

My time here is past the halfway point and I'm feeling like I don't want to waste a minute so I am tired. I walk to the studio shortly after breakfast and return there again after dinner until it is late. I know that I'll slow down a bit when I complete my current painting. Part of the push is that I'm anxious to start the next image that is floating around in my brain.

There are always creative people coming and going. Quite a few of the artists that I've gotten to know well have left in the past few days. It is difficult to say so many goodbyes. I know that I will be sad to leave when it is my turn to go.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Day 11 to 14 - April 12 to 15, 2007

I've been painting on my large canvas, my coastal diptych. The colours are exciting me and even though it is difficult and tiring work I am having a blast. I mostly keep things quiet in the studio so that I can hear the birds outside my window but when my energy wanes I put on my headphones and turn on the tunes. This beautiful studio space with large white walls, wonderful light that comes from a good size window, a skylight and spots is a welcoming place to be. I am able to translate the energy of the landscape into my brushstroke here. Yesterday was exciting as I experienced what the impressionist painters must have experienced in their work. I was painting a long passage with tiny brushstrokes of pale colours layered over a vibrant yellow and orange background and the canvas started to shimmer. It was mesmerizing. By the time I was done I felt very Zen-like as though I had been meditating or perhaps under hypnosis. The other thing that I have found is that I am coming up with a flood of ideas for new work in this series and ways that I can expand on it. Having blocks of time to work is invaluable and I'm determined to try to eliminate some of my distractions once I get home so that my days are not so broken.

My shoulders and back are quite knotted and sore from painting long hours. Before we left Missouri Geoff gave me a hot water bottle which I am thankful for. I'm looking forward to my massage tomorrow. Someone had amazing insight when they arranged for a massage therapist to come here a few times a week! I have been taking breaks from my work and have headed outdoors to run and I did a hike to Crabtree Falls with some of the other visual artists and writers that I've gotten to know. I've also been to the pool again at Sweet Briar College. Today Jan and I drove Canyon to Charlottesville so she could visit some of her friends that moved here from Tibet. When we arrived they invited us into their home for tea which was delightful.

The weather has been sunny and bright up until the past few days. It poured today and I find that the rain reminds me of Vancouver and I'm feeling homesick!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Note from John

Cheryl asked me to thank you all for the emails you've sent, and to apologize for her for not answering - she's trying to stay really focused on the residency for the time she has there, and the internet connection is cranky at best. She'll catch up with everyone when she gets home at the end of the month.

There's still one cabin available for the first Plein Air workshop on Saturna Island, June 20-24, 2007. The second session is full, but we are keeping a waiting list. See for more details.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Day 10 - April 11, 2007

Today I awoke eager to get into the studio. By the end of the day my coastal landscape looked very different with a completely new palette and some corrections in perspective. I am really excited about the direction that I am taking.

Five of us drove to Lynchburg for dinner to celebrate Canyon's birthday. I can't imagine a better way to spend a birthday than at an artist residency, and dinner was amazing!

Day 9 - April 10, 2007

I felt tired today and after spending a little time fussing with my painting I realized that I hadn't taken a day off. After lunch I relaxed with some art books and magazines and went for a run at Sweet Briar. After dinner I walked down the drive with a few of the fellows. Canyon and I continued along the woods trail and spent quite a long time in the mustard field watching the sky
work its way through a variety of deep blues. Just as it turned indigo Venus appeared followed by a multitude of stars.

When we were done stargazing, Canyon gave me a tour of her writing studio. It is lovely and cozy. It was fun to see some photos of her Tibetan friends and women who she is writing about.

The most wonderful thing about being here is that no matter what it is that I am doing I can stay focused on my work, I don't have to switch gears to move into a different part of my life. Even when things aren't going well I can let the ugly images spin around in my head until I come up with a solution. There is a lot of stimulus, inspiring scenery, intelligent and creative people,
libraries full of books, magazines, papers and film. In the studio late tonight I was able make some creative decisions about my work. I went to bed with a plan and looking forward to my next work day.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Day 8 - April 9, 2007

I spent the morning painting to the tune of an upset heifer. She was penned in the area of the barn that my studio faces in punishment for having run away and she was not at all happy. I really didn't mind though, it was refreshing in comparison to the din of the traffic that I hear in the city.

Painting went well this morning but I lost it shortly after lunch. Frustrating! I returned to the studio at about 8:30pm, did some repainting but am still pulling my hair out.

After dinner Bruce, an actor and playwright from New York read from an essay that he is working on. It was about a life-altering event and was very moving. Sara (pen name Pennypacker), a children's author read from one of her Clementine books. I've gotten to know Sara a bit over the last week and was delighted to discover that she is the author of this lovely series.

Day 7 - Easter 2007

How fitting it is to be starting a new painting today, a new beginning. I spent time this morning reflecting on life, on painting, the direction that I want to take with my work. Pursuing visual art is becoming more rewarding for me as time passes but does still challenge me in many ways. I've come here with a goal to push myself out of my comfort zone and I'm certainly doing that. I have to remind myself often of my goal, as it is easy to fall back into familiar patterns. Something as simple as the question: "What do you plan to do with an 8' X 3' painting?" can cause me to doubt what I'm doing.

By late afternoon my canvas was looking very colourful and my arms had had another tough day so I decided to give them a break and let my legs do some work. Anthony who is a still life painter has been to the VCCA before and is familiar with the many trails at Sweet Briar College. We went for a run on the campus along a lovely country road, which started at the old train station, overlooked beautiful and lush green rolling hills, took us past the college equestrian center and the visual arts buildings. Around every corner there was a scene waiting to be painted and a hill to pant up. I returned to the residency feeling invigorated.

This evening we loaded into cars and went back to the college by caravan for Easter dinner. Upon returning a few of us gathered in the living room with some bottles of wine and had a lovely evening. I called my parents' home where everyone was gathered and I was able to chat with my family. It was odd to be away from them on Easter but nice to be here in this vibrant community.

Day 6 - April 7, 2007

Today was a workout! I wrestled with an 18 foot long piece of canvas and managed to cut it and staple it to the wall by myself. I vigorously painted 2 coats of gesso on it and then swam lengths at the Sweet Briar College recreation facility while they were drying. I wonder if I'll be able to raise my arms to paint tomorrow.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Day 5 - April 6, 2007

It's 3 pm and I've finished my first large piece, an 8' x 3' coastal scene with lots of drama and movement. I'm very excited by it because it conveys the mood that I was feeling when I experienced it on our trip up the coast in 2005. I challenged myself to work differently, a lot more spontaneously than I do in my studio and I plan to push myself even more so in the next piece. Being here allows me to 'put myself into character' as the writers say and stay there for days on end as there is nothing else to do here but be absorbed in the work.

I'm going to celebrate my fait accompli by going for a run on the trails in the woods. I feel my next image brewing inside of me so after some scenic inspiration, fresh air and exercise I'll head to my drawing table in the studio. It is situated in front of a large window that faces a small rustic barn and some old silos. Amazing! I certainly don't miss the large trucks that rumble by my Vancouver studio!

Day 4 - April 5, 2007

I'll be brief as it is late and I just returned from my studio. I started my day by walking a 1 ½ mile trail through the woods landing in a vibrant yellow mustard field next to the studio barn. It was much cooler out today but sunny and the sky tonight is a clear black speckled with stars.

The first part of my day went very well, I was thinking that my first painting should be complete early tomorrow. Wrong!!!! Re-entering the real world for a trip into town on the shuttle to pick up some supplies broke the spell. I struggled the remainder of the day and knew that if I didn't resolve my foreground woes before bed I'd have a restless sleep. So it was back to the barn after dinner to do some problem solving. I can sleep now!

Day 3 - April 4, 2007

I woke up tired but anxious to get to the studio. After a quiet breakfast I headed to work and spent a few minutes with my back to my canvas and then did a quick twirl and voila! It is vibrant and very Van Goghish and I like it!

I spent the day working over the under painting, creating a twirling, windy sky and serious distant landforms, the center ones glowing green. After a very social and interesting lunch with another painter and several writers I headed to my room to recharge my ipod. I lay down to stretch my back and woke up an hour later. Who but another painter would believe how exhausting it is to play with paint all day?

There was some good wine and lots of lively chitchat at my dinner table tonight. Most of the creative people come from various areas of the US with the exception of myself, Reiza from Paris and Augustine from Nigeria.

After dinner Canyon Sam from San Francisco showed a video of a one-woman play that she wrote and acted in. I am awestruck by her talent. She is a bright, gentle and kind woman who gave me some Airborne that knocked my cold out of me.

Day 2 - April 3, 2007

It is 9:45pm and I'm walking from my studio to the residence when I turn back to look towards the barn. There is soft light filtering through the white drapes of a writers' studio and I can see the charcoal silhouette of the old building. The full moon is glowing peach and is illuminating the sky with a pale cerulean-gray hue. There are dark cumulous clouds floating past the scene. I hear frogs and the soft munching and snorting of the resident cows, invisible in the dark field. I think that I am in a dream, a very good dream. I am thinking of Pam and wishing that I could send this dream or the feeling of this dream to her.

I started my workday by applying a second coat of gesso to my canvas with a 4" brush and vigorous strokes. While letting it dry I did a study on watercolour paper and was so focused that it was complete in little time! The air is humid here and it took quite awhile to dry. My large canvas is on it's way to becoming? A painting? It is so unlike my usual carefully planned scenes. At this moment the sky is undercoated in great swirls of teals and greens reminiscent of the wind on the day that I experienced this scene. I am attempting to recreate the eerie green that lit the distant landforms and am hoping to make the water look stern.

After a wonderful dinner this evening, Mary Page Evans did a slide presentation of her plein air paintings. Most of them are 5' across or more. She stretches the canvas on a board, which she props against a tree, or lays in the field grass and upon which she creates beautiful loose landscapes in oils. She has been to the VCCA 15 times.

I crave to be in the studio all of the time, it is like a constant adrenaline rush but common sense tells me that I should get some sleep.

Day 1 - April 2, 2007

I'm here and it is absolutely gorgeous! I feel a bit in shock after an exciting and scenic whirlwind road trip with John through Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, DC and Virginia. My heart dropped when I watched John drive down the road to head for his flight home from Richmond. We haven't been apart for more than a long weekend since we've met.My studio

I pulled myself together and managed to unpack my supplies, set up my studio and start to work. No sense wasting time, I'm sure that the month will pass by quickly.