I think it’s too bad that footprints have become associated with the negative impact that people have in the world. When we travel, we stop and consider our carbon-footprint; when we use something, we weigh it’s ecological-footprint …
I personally love footprints, as I think of them as a microcosm of the positive environmental impact we can have. When we step our bare foot onto the earth, a creative endeavour happens—we make our uniquely personal impression but it becomes informed by that earth. The shapeless, sandy impressions I left in the desert of California are different from the crisp, dark, watery outlines I left on the granite of Nova Scotia which is different again from the bright, ghostly imprint that I left in the mud of the Conestogo River today. In each case my footprints are something of a collaboration between myself and that specific environment—something that I believe is at the heart of every place were we live. A footprint, to me, represents the very essence of what I understand place to be.
My own work with local-colours is in the same vein as these footprints—using the earth in collaboration. The colourful rocks I collect from different places are unique, and their resulting personalities enrich my painting. The village of Conestogo has a long history of creating pigments from it’s rocks (if you’re interested, you can read more about it here in a previous post). I still haven’t found the exact place where bog-iron ore was once mined to create pigment a century ago, but I have a place along the river where I can dig-up enough pigment for my placeful colours.
Today I went on my first local-colour pigment hunt of 2012! Working with my kids over the years has taught me that nothing is more special than collecting treasures from your own backyard. And, with the unusually warm weather that this sunny spring has brought us in southern Ontario, the Conestogo River’s water-levels were low enough to collect a little colour (which is personally very timely—given that I need this pigment for an upcoming show in Kamloops …). It’s a rare March day in Canada when one can happily leave footprints in any river’s mud—which made today all the more glorious!