Tag Archives: #atozchallenge

S is for Slug, Snow, Spindrift, Spring and Street Art (#AtoZChallenge2018)



Spindrift IMG_2421

Spindrift [Fine snow that blows off a mountain… well, I guess it could blow off anywhere, but this was snow blowing around above the Bow Valley]

Snapseed 87

Snow is melting away before our eyes as spring finally, finally finds its way to the Bow Valley. This year, it seems like winter has been here for a very long time. 


S, it turns out, is full of potential when it comes to this month’s daily blogging challenge! It seems everywhere I look it’s all about transformation (the theme this month is Travel, Transformation and Transition…).

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been receiving updates on a watercolour painting from Dad’s studio…



In an artist’s studio, ideas are transformed into drawings, paintings, prints, lino cuts… 


The subject matter? Unusual, to say the least!



Slug, slowly making his way to completion… 



IMG_2422 Slug ECW

Slug on the Camino by E. Colin Williams (2018)




Stormy Seas… by E. Colin Williams (Oil on Board) I don’t think that’s actually the real title, but today is day so I’ll leave it for now… I’m sure Dad will let me the correct title. 


When I travel, one of the things I love to photograph is the street art I come across. Somehow, even the roughest of neighbourhoods, most rustic back alleys, decrepit sheds, and ramshackle fences are transformed when someone takes the time to add a little art… Here are a few pieces of street art spotted while wondering through Paris earlier this month…

IMG_1800 2.JPG

IMG_1801 2.JPG

IMG_1802 2.JPGIMG_1804 2.JPG

IMG_1808 2.JPG

IMG_1793 2.JPG

And, of course, I can’t leave this post without mentioning Rodin and this piece of sculpture featuring a great stone… Oh, I sure did enjoy myself in Rodin’s garden!

IMG_1702 2

Oh, one last thought… sometimes the stones themselves become works of art as in this installation not far from my place here in Canmore.




Portal XII by Lucie Bause, 2011


I could keep going for hours, but it’s been a very long day staring at the computer as I work my way through the draft of the new manuscript and my eyeballs are getting more square by the minute! So, away I go to slip off to SLEEP so I can transition into T is for tomorrow!


Abbott Handerson Thayer 1887 sleep-1887.jpg!Large

Sleep by Abbott Handersaon Thayer, 1887



R is for Red (AtoZChallenge2018)


Kiki de Montparnasse in a Red Jumper and a Blue Scarf, by Moise Kisling, 1925

It’s one of the first colours we learn to identify as children. Our eye is drawn to the red smear in a visual composition. It’s the symbol of blood and of love, anger and the universal color of stop signs around the world. Associated with the Red Cross, the red sun on the Japanese flag (it’s actually the most popular colour used in flags with 77% of all flags including it somewhere…), red is also the least common hair colour in the human population (only 1-2% of the world’s population can lay claim to red hair).



Moise Kisling obviously liked both Kiki and the colour red… (this portrait is called Kiki de Montparnasse in a Red Dress)


Red is one of the primary colours – the others being yellow and blue. In theory, if one mixes two primary colours you get secondary colours (green, orange and purple) and then, if you mix primary and secondary colours you wind up with tertiary colours. If you know what you are doing and have a bit of black and white you should be able to mix any colour you can imagine.


P3060031 ECW Watercolours

As a kid, I was totally intrigued by the magical paint-mixing that went on while Dad was working. Even now when I visit his studio this process seems like a strange kind of alchemy, capturing light and form, shape and shadow by smearing colour on a flat surface… 




Mondrian composition-c-no-iii-with-red-yellow-and-blue-1935.jpg!Large

By contrast, Piet Mondrian seems to have gone to great lengths to keep his colours clean and separate. This is Composition C (No. III) With Red Yellow and Blue, 1935


Also keeping it simple (colour-wise) is Roy Lichtenstein and this pop art portrait.


Lichtenstein head-red-and-yellow-1962(1)

Head – red and yellow (1962)



Mary Cassatt 1898 little-girl-in-a-red-beret-1898.jpg!Large

This pensive child caught the eye of Mary Cassatt. Little Girl in a Red Beret dates from 1898. 


Would you call the child’s smock pink? Salmon? When you think about it, there are many, many words describing ‘red.’ Ruby. Carmine. Fire engine. Crimson. Rusty. And, plenty more… What’s your favourite shade of red? In case you are wondering, today’s artwork effort on my part was completely the wrong palette (greens and blues) so I won’t post here and spoil the word of the day…


Snapseed 86

I went for a long walk this evening and took a ton of photographs. Scrolling through them there was a shocking dearth of red anywhere to be found. Except, in this photo which I snapped of a hula hoop hanging from a tree at the side of the trail. Who knows why a hoop should dangle just there… is it possible to drop your hula hoop and not notice? I thought the diminutive splashes of red were a lovely contrast to the more muted palette of the mountains before spring has fully sprung… 

See you tomorrow…


Q is for Quarry Lake (AtoZChallenge2018)


IMG_2289 Quarry Lake Picnic

Quarry Lake Park near Canmore


Well, sometimes the stars align, hey? I was wondering what on earth I’d dredge up to talk about when Q rolled around. After I picked A. up from a dentist appointment, we headed up to Quarry Lake for a stroll and a pizza-themed picnic. Because it’s so close (about a five-minute drive from downtown), it’s a pretty popular spot and even though the trails are  soggy at the moment there were lots of people out and about enjoying the spring sunshine (and, yes, it is very strange for me, a Vancouver Islander for so many years, to consider a snow-covered landscape to be in any way related to the word spring).

The views here are terrific – Ha Ling is one of my favourite mountains (we can see it from our condo, just across the valley), but up close and personal, it’s an impressive peak. Quarry Lake Park is also a designated off-leash dog park, which makes it a great place for pup-watching.


Quarry Lake Tree Bark

Quarry Lake Tree (bark detail)… Keep an eye on the blog for a pastel interpretation of these great colours and patterns!  


The lake was still sort of frozen (everything is quite slushy this time of year) and overed with snow, but in the summer should one try to swim out a bit and dive down (good luck – it’s cold no matter what time of year you visit…), you’d have to hold your breath a loooong time before you reached the bottom as it’s over 100 meters deep in its deepest, darkest corners (if a lake can have corners…)

Once a quarry (surprise, surprise), the park is slowly reclaiming land once used for mining. And, yes, I do mean the park is doing the reclaiming. Picnic tables and toilets aside, large areas are just being left alone to slowly return to their natural state.



Ha Ling from Quarry Lake Park, Mixed Media Experiment (yep, I touched Deb’s pastels… living dangerously! Don’t know what I’m talking about? Visit P is for Pastels)


See you tomorrow! I wonder if I’m actually going to make it through the R-S-T-U -V-When-will-the-alphabet-ever-end doldrums this year?? So far, so good… it’s looking promising!



P is for Pastels… (AtoZChallenge2018)



Two Dancers (pastel on paper) by Edgar Degas, 1898-1899


A long time ago (when I was moving from Victoria to Canmore) I discovered a box of art supplies in our storage room. In that box were some ancient pastels that perhaps once belonged to my son-in-law, perhaps a gift from his mom who loves to scavenge for treasures in garage sales and thrift shops. T. claims to have no idea where they came from and had no interest in keeping them, so they wound up moving here to the mountains with me.



The mysterious thrift store set of pastels…


Pastels are terrifying. They are messy and intense and stick to your fingers like a bad relationship. Or something. Anyway, they’ve stayed in a box with an ancient pad of pastel paper and a few other bits and bobs waiting for me to get brave enough to touch them.



The Players (pastel on paper) by Raphael Kirchner


Then, my friend Deb moved to Canmore and decided to clean out some excess art supplies and I found myself with a few more, newer pastels – also too scary to touch. Part of my anxiety around visual art comes from having grown up with an actual, accomplished artist. Talk about feeling intimidated! I was chatting with Dad about this at some point and he shook his head and said, “…when you were a kid you didn’t worry about it. You just tried stuff. You were quite good.”


pastel-2 Robert Brackman

Pastel by Robert Brackman


He’s my dad and I was a cute kid, so he’s obliged to say stuff like that. But, it did get me thinking that kids don’t worry about whether or not their efforts are good enough. At least, not at first. Eventually, many learn that yes, everything we do is judged – either by others or by our own inner critics… But at first, we just play. We grab whatever supplies are in front of us and we scribble and swirl, mix and match, experiment and goof around.



Georg Anton Urlaub, Self-portrait (1735) I didn’t realize that pastels have been around since the Renaissance… I bet this guy wasn’t nearly so neurotic when it came time to pick up his pigment sticks… 


What, I wondered, would I have done with this abundance of pastels when I was 6 or 7? Who knows? What I do know, though, is I would have done something. I wouldn’t have kept the stuff in a box for two years wishing I had the nerve to play.



Bruised Planet Adrift (Nikki plays with her box of pastels… There. The curse has been broken. Now I’ll practice a bit, learn how to use the darned things, and see what I might be able to come up with. Note: I’m still a bit leery about touching Deb’s lovely, very new pastels.)

And, finally, one of the names of artists I heard mentioned often when I was growing up was Victor Pasmore, a British painter who influenced Dad when he was an art student. I don’t think this painting of his was done in pastels, but it does have a spiral-esque thing going on… just like me (heh heh). And, his name starts with P, so it’s totally legit to include him here today…



Spiral Motif in White, Black and Indigo, Victor Pasmore (1951) 

See you tomorrow!



O is for Opportunity, Outlines, Opening and Getting Organized



Typewriter Eraser, Scale X  (collaboration with van Bruggen) by Claes Oldenburg (1999)
This is one of my favourite sculptures in Seattle. A huge typewriter eraser, it brings back memories of the bad old days when I had to retype whole pages when faced with more than two mistakes. Those erasers chewed holes in the page if you weren’t careful!


OK. Whether or not I get this post done will be in the hands of the blog gods… because, yeah – I’m not as organized as I probably should have been today. Both of my writing groups meet today – one in the afternoon and one in the evening and, of course, I’m scrambling to polish the opening of the assisted dying book to whip it into reasonable shape so I can get some feedback. That’s how it goes, sometimes. Often, if I’m honest. The deadline looms and suddenly I am a writing machine.

Which is not to say I haven’t been working on the book for the last… oh, I don’t know – 18 months or so. I have been steadily busy – reading, researching, making notes – organizing my thoughts, writing outlines, writing sections and then – making more notes, re-organizing everything, adding more stuff, finding better ways to express complicated ideas.

But there’s something about knowing the editor needs the manuscript on her desk on May 1 that sends terror into my heart, lights a fire under my backside, and sends words flying across the keyboard (or, fingers flying across the keyboard and words scrolling across the screen).


Edits Assisted Dying IMG_2282

Sometimes it’s a real challenge to follow my thoughts as they zig-zag all over the place during the revision process…  


It’s coming along. I will get the draft done on time. But wow – this has been a tough project to wrangle into shape. That said, when I had the opportunity to explore a topic as interesting and relevant as this one, there was no way I was going to let it slip away. In that way, I am a ‘yes’ person through and through. I’ve never been one to walk away from a challenge. That’s not to say I’ve always been successful with every project I’ve attempted: failures have taught me as much (more?) than my triumphs. But neither (successes or flops) would have been possible without trying.


Edouard Manet young-woman-with-a-book-1875

Edouard Manet: Young Woman With a Book (1875) It’s sooooo much more fun to relax and read a good book than it is to pull out your hair trying to write one… 


And that, my friends, is all I’ve got today. Here’s hoping things will be a bit better balanced tomorrow and I won’t be writing this with one eye on the clock and my heart beating just a bit too fast than is probably good for me.



N is for Ned (Kelly), (Sidney) Nolan, and Notoriety​


Ned_Kelly 1880

Ned Kelly in 1880


Nobody needs to keep moving quite like an outlaw, a fugitive on the run, a criminal on the lam… Where am I going with this? Keep in mind that this month my theme is On the Move: Travel, Transitions, and Transformation, so all my posts should, theoretically, somehow relate. And, if you’ve been following along, many of the posts have wound up having some connection to art as well, art being the ultimate means of transforming real life into something… else. Oh boy, that thought is heading fast in the direction of musing about the question, What is art? [If you feel like you might have an answer, please feel free to post your thoughts down in the comments below…]

Meanwhile, however, Ned Kelly comes to mind. Ned was one of a handful of iconic figures I was aware of as a child growing up in Australia. The swagman (of once a jolly fame) and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo were a couple of others… Ned, though, he was a guy who got my mother’s goat. Why? she ranted, would people admire a common criminal? “He was nothing but a hoodlum!” That may have been true, but good old Ned, who came by his dastardly ways honestly (his father was a convict) ignited something in Australia’s collective imagination. His early misdeeds mostly involved stealing horses and a bit of cattle rustling, but he and his gang later upped the ante by robbing banks and killing police officers. It all ended badly, of course – Kelly survived a wild shootout (many others didn’t), but was then tried, convicted and hanged.


the-trial-1947 Ned Kelly series by Sidney Nolan

Sidney Nolan’s The Trial (1947) is one of many paintings depicting scenes inspired by Ned Kelly’s life. 


His story, though, lives on in art, film, music and literature.



Ned Kelly survived multiple gunshots because he was wearing this armour under his long Aussie coat. Love him or hate him, you have to admit he was ingenious… 



Armoured Helmet by Sidney Nolan, 1956 – In this intriguing painting, it seems like Nolan is trying to capture the view from the inside of the helmet. some aspect of the wearer’s face (Ned? is that you?) and the helmet as seen from afar…



I’ll leave you with this final factoid… Did you know Mick Jagger played Ned in the film Ned Kelly (1970)? I had no idea, but I’m thinking I need to track down a copy…

See you tomorrow…

World Art Day – and Week Two Recap (#AtoZChallenge2018)

According to my source (thanks, Dad!) today is World Art Day! Given that Dad was the first artist I met (and certainly the one I’ve known for the longest), here’s a black and white photo of an early painting from Australia.


The Rocks

The Rocks by E. Colin Williams – not sure of the date – 1967ish?


This is an old area of Sydney – here’s a link to the Wikipedia page about The Rocks, now a touristy destination while still preserving some of the flavour of this historic district.

All these many years later, Dad is still going strong, still painting, still exploring new subjects, materials and techniques. Yes, he’s my father so I’m a bit biased, but I find him inspiring and love getting texts each day with updates from the studio. I never know what to expect and it’s so cool to be able to see paintings as they progress from the roughest of sketches to finished works.


IMG_6202 ECW Self Portrait

Self Portrait, 2015 E. Colin Williams Unfortunately, this photo isn’t really sharp, but it’s kind of fun to see the artist posing with the artist…


Hmm… I’ve been enjoying the daily blogging challenge this month – maybe I’ll continue for another month and just blog daily about Dad’s projects. He’s got lots on the go at the moment – then you could all see the cool stuff I get to see arriving on my phone each day…

I will chew on that between now and the end of April … Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in an ECW Art-themed month of blog posts starting in May.

Meanwhile, here are links to this past week’s blog posts:

Day 9 – H is for Home

Day 10 – I is for Ice

Day 11- J is for Jumping Jehosephat (and a BUNCH of other fun J words)

Day 12 – K is for Kisses, Klimt and Kerouac

Day 13 – L is for Landscape, Leonardo, Liu, Lowery, Lichtenstein and Lots more…

Day 14 – M is for Mary, Mountain (but not Montmartre)

See you tomorrow when we return to our regularly scheduled alphabet… Thanks for reading!