Tag Archives: Art

An update about the Camino

Our trip to Spain is getting closer! Follow the link below to my writing blog for more details…

There is nothing quite like receiving that email confirming your flight is booked. In this case, the series of emails (Calgary to Paris via Montreal, Paris to Madrid and then various bits and pieces of the return trip plus information about trains within Spain) have triggered a crazy mix of wild excitement and sheer terror. […]

via Camino tickets BOOKED!!!!!! — Nikki Tate – Author

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Dad Draws a Tree

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to watch my father draw. It has always seemed to be somewhat miraculous the way images somehow seep out of the tip of his pencil (or flow from the brushes) and onto the page (or canvas). Because Dad will be recording his impressions of the Camino trip visually, we have been talking a lot recently about the artistic process and how he will capture his experience of the trip through his art.

We’ve decided to make a series of videos about Dad and his work – where he gets his ideas, how he ‘trains’ for a new project (more about that in a future post), and then how he gets what’s in his head onto the page. This first, short video (about two minutes long) shows him drawing a tree. Simple. But we wanted to set up the camera and do a test before we launch into anything more complicated. I have watched it several times now and still find it just as fascinating to see a tree appear from nothing as I did when I watched, captivated as he drew or painted something marvelous when I was a little girl.

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Enjoy the blog? Consider becoming a patron to support the creation of these blog posts, photo essays, and short videos. In return, you’ll have my undying appreciation, but you’ll also get access to Patron-only content, advance peeks at works in progress, and more – all for as little as a buck a month! It’s easy – head on over to Patreon to have a look at how it all works.

Welcome to Patreon – Video

I recently decided to set up a Patreon account as a way to help smooth out the fiscal bumps and hollows of a life spent writing. Patreon guides you through the steps of setting up an account and as part of that process they encourage creators to make a short intro video… I am, for a change, playing by the rules… And so, I present to you, my intro video for Patreon:

patreon-logo

Enjoy the blog? Consider becoming a patron to support the creation of these blog posts, photo essays, and short videos. In return, you’ll have my undying appreciation, but you’ll also get access to Patron-only content, advance peeks at works in progress, and more – all for as little as a buck a month! It’s easy – head on over to Patreon to have a look at how it all works.

Japanese Maple

One of the first ornamental trees we planted when we moved here was a Japanese maple – two, actually. One has stayed tiny and red, the other has become a giant (for the diminutive maple). Both Dad and I have always liked the delicate leaves and interesting forms of these trees.

Japanese Maple by E. Colin Williams

Japanese Maple by E. Colin Williams

While Dad has been sketching away in his studio, I’ve been a regular at the library, checking out various books about trees including a couple by Thomas Pakenham. In the book, Meetings with Remarkable Trees I found lots of odd information about trees with strong personalities. The photos and artwork in the book are inspiring and do, indeed, capture something of the individual nature of trees. What was perhaps the coolest thing, though, was the way a previous patron had pressed leaves between many of the pages.

Leaves, mostly maple, have been carefully pressed between the pages of this library book about trees...

Leaves, mostly maple, have been carefully pressed between the pages of this library book about trees…

So what should I do, librarian friends? Do I leave the leaves alone and let someone else have the pleasure of finding them? Or do I remove them because maybe it isn’t such a good idea to have fauna lurking inside library books?

The Holly and the Ivy (and the cabbage and the cigarette)

Dad is having his revenge. Today as we were driving to the local raw food/wrap shop to pick up scraps for the pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, et al (yes, there is still some farming going on around here) he started singing the old English Christmas carol, The Holly and the Ivy and then launched into a list of factoids relating to holly (evergreen, red-berry-bearing and manly) and ivy (evergreen, sinewy and feminine). The fact both plants are green in the depths of winter is reason enough to celebrate them in song, but what was really interesting was the way each had been assigned a gender.

Holly Tree by E. Colin Williams (Tree a day drawing project)

Holly Tree by E. Colin Williams
(Tree a day drawing project)

This tradition of association with one gender or the other was taken to some strange lengths back in the day. According to Dad (and his online sources), ancient Brits (as in, folk of the British Isles who lived long, long ago – not doddering fools living in Leicester) used to hold singing contests when there wasn’t much else to do when the days are short and frosty. It was the men against the women, singing their hearts out in praise of their respective shrubbery, dissing that of the opposition. All, of course, was done in good fun and, apparently, at the end of these vocal feuds everyone kissed and made up under the mistletoe.

Hm. I was still pondering all this when Dad mentioned a powder room and I immediately thought of a small room in which British types powdered their noses and otherwise readied themselves for well-mannered conversations with other primped and prepped pommies. “They were lined with copper,” Dad was on a roll and, as I was imagining what fancy powder rooms they used to have, he was chatting on about how the fine sailing vessel HMS Victory (the one Lord Nelson sailed into the Battle of Trafalgar) was made with wood from 6,000 oak trees and did I know that it was the oldest-still-in-commission ship in the British fleet and currently serves as a museum ship… All of this was coming at me rapid fire as I was driving and, I confess, I was still struggling to understand why anyone would line a powder room with copper.

“So, why did they line them with copper?”

“Because of sparks.”

At which point I burst out laughing because, of course, Dad was talking about powder rooms in old wooden gun ships where, yes, sparks would be a bit of a problem with all that gunpowder lying around. And I was thinking of little old English ladies who had consumed one too many helpings of cabbage and then slipped off to the powder room for an illicit cigarette.

This Month, it’s All About Trees

There is nothing like a deadline to inspire a burst of creative energy! My newest book (co-written with my daughter, Dani) has just come out and we are busy planning a cool book launch, hopefully in partnership with the kids at Shoreline School (stay tuned – more on that as the plans come together).

New book!! It was cool to work on a project like this with daughter, Dani...

New book!! It was cool to work on a project like this with daughter, Dani…More info here

Meanwhile, though, the next book (also in the Footprints series) is well underway. The subject of the book is trees, which means I’ve been driving friends and family mad recently by babbling on and on and on about baobabs and canopy scientists, corduroy roads and carbon sinks. In some kind of self-defense move, Dad piped up the other day and told me he was doing a tree-a-day drawing challenge. “Remember how you used to do that blog a day thing?” he asked pointedly. “Like that.”

Okay, okay – it has been BUSY around here this summer, too busy, apparently, for me to sit at the computer and blog on a regular basis. Well, at all, in fact. But here we are with the seasons shifting once again. The evenings are longer and there is hope that I can find some inside time to get to projects like the blog.

Trees herald the change of seasons with such... intensity!

Trees herald the change of seasons with such… intensity!

Given that I am obsessing about trees anyway, Dad suggested I write a little something about the trees he is capturing on paper. Which seemed like an excellent idea until I saw that his first subject was a Garry Oak. “They are so gnarly – all those twisty branches,” Dad explained when I asked why he had picked the Garry Oak as his first subject for the series.

Garry Oak Trees by E. Colin Williams (drawing)Garry Oak Trees by E. Colin Williams (drawing)

To an artist I guess twisty and gnarly equals interesting and challenging to draw, but I must confess that Garry Oaks are some of my least favourite trees! (Sorry, sorry to the Garry Oak lovers out there – and, no – it absolutely was not I who poisoned Margaret’s lovely old tree – THAT tree is special… and, yes – there are maniacs out there who go about drilling holes into the roots of gnarly old trees all the better to inject them with tree-murdering toxins! Note to self: subject for a future post…silvacide.)

Garry Oak ecosystems are fragile and rare, so much so that there are armies of volunteers out there who are working diligently to preserve the trees and their immediate surroundings [for more information on this work, visit this website and have a look at the amazing resources they have made available]. Garry Oaks (Oregon White Oaks) live in western North America close to the Pacific Ocean. Their range is limited and threatened by urban and agricultural development and linked to a whole community of native species threatened by all manner of invasive species like Scotch broom and Himalayan blackberry. Given my propensity for cheering for the underdog, it’s a bit surprising I don’t know more about them. Hm. I sense a shift in attitude is already in progress…

What about you? Do you have a favourite kind of tree? A least favourite? What is it about some trees that makes them so appealing? Or, unappealing as the case may be…

 

Selfie Meets Hurricane Ethel – Artist vs Farmer

Selfie - brown sweater

I was considering posting more snow photos (maybe we’ve all seen enough of those? And besides, our snowlettte hardly counts… ) or a dreadfully wobbly video of me chopping through the ice on the horse trough in the pitch darkness (you have no idea how hard it is to hold the phone steady and not drop it in the icy water, point the headlamp more or less in the correct direction so the axe head is illuminated, and then chop effectively… The sound effects are good, but the video – not so much). I still haven’t got around to writing up my notes from the Deconstructing Dinner talk last week (was going to do that but then reached for my purse, into which I had stuffed my scrawled scribblings, when I realized my purse is down in the truck cab…) And then I remembered that this week’s photo challenge is none other than the Selfie!!

Regulars here will know this one had my name all over it, given my recent obsession with selfies and the deeper meaning thereof… Here’s a link to the post that talked about self portraits, artists and their interpretation of selfies, and a few of mine… And here’ s a link to the [very] recent post about how my felfie (a selfie by a farmer) won some market bucks at the local community market… I kind of like that one because the chicken looks so stern and regal and I don’t typically think of chickens as looking either stern or regal…

Dad and I have continued to talk about this strange thing artists (and now every Tom, Dick, and Harriet with a phone) have with self portraits… One of the things Dad mentioned was how important it is to get the eyes right – and how challenging that can be. If you can capture that whatever-it-is that makes the eyes seem alive, you have half a chance of creating an image that makes an impression.

Alas, his comment about how hard it is to get the eyes right caught me in a goofy, ‘what else can I do with google’s image toys?’ frame of mind and I came up with this:

Face twitch-MOTIONThen I thought I should settle down and try to do something more serious and took this one:

Closed eye selfie

Every time I added another filter it added forty years or so, which was a tad depressing. I mean, I feel pretty tired at the end of some days, but some of these were rather alarming…

Selfie old

What I would look like if I were 87, lived in the desert, and had just heard my favourite goat had died while giving birth to triplets. Where on earth will I find the milk to raise the babies?

Meanwhile, Dad was in his studio obsessing about eyes. A while back he had done a self portrait in shades of grey:

Self portrait [E. Colin Williams]

Self portrait [E. Colin Williams]

Dad photographed one of his eyes from the painting:

ECW Self Portrait - Eye… printed it out at a scarily larger than life size… And then, he spiralled down into that eye and recalled a story from September 1960 when he and my mother were travelling together through Florida. They were holed up in a tiny rustic cabin which, apparently, was full of holes and very drafty when Hurricane Ethel struck the Florida panhandle. This could have been a scary story, but instead it was more one of those bizarre nightmare scenarios that one comes up with in… you know… nightmares.

Dad and a friend (a B-52 bomber mechanic) had completely taken apart the transmission of Mom and Dad’s 1956 Packard. Every last tiny bit had been spread out on a tarp on the floor of the cabin in accordance with the exploded drawing in the manual. Every piece had been cleaned and oiled and checked over, lined up and was ready for reassembly when Ethel rolled ashore bringing with her a gazillion bits of girt and sand and dirt and dust which blasted through the many cracks in the walls and around the door and windows, nicely coating the many delicate parts of said transmission. Dad said they hoped Ethel would carry off the car so they could write it off but no such luck. They spent the next who knows how long cleaning off every speck of crud before the transmission could be put back together again.

This made a huge impression on my parents as this was one of those stories we heard over the dinner table at various points as we were growing up… The image of that storm still, apparently, haunts Dad as this is where he went from the close-up of his eye:

Ethel Comes to Town

Which, when you compare it to the original eyeball

E. Colin Williams - eye detailmakes one realize just how aptly the eye of the storm is named…