Looking back and remembering the people and places I had the chance to visit this past year I can’t help but think what an amazing year was 2013.
The year began with a trip to San Diego and working with Dr. Norrie and her Science Explorers Club. This mini-workshop tied together everything I hope and dream of for the idea of local colour—a reconnection with the land, a personal interpretation of the landscape in art making, and a general excitement and good-time being had by all. While I came intending to give a gift, I was the one who was blessed.
March found me in Boston attending an Edward Tufte seminar (I even got to meet with him and get a brief critique of the maps from the Atlas of Canada’s Local Colour!). His publications on cognitive art have been very helpful in my mapping work and it was great to see him talk in person. While in Boston I also got to visit the Mapparium (a 1930’s glass spherical room that’s three stories high). While visually interesting, it was the acoustics of such a space that really blew me away …
In April, I traveled to Vancouver, where I got to attend the opening of my friend Carolyn solo show at the Dundarave Print Workshop and also meet Kevin and Jessica at Kroma (an artisanal paintmaking shop on Granville Island). Hanging out with friends and artists like these was a joy.
My favourite weekend in May was the one when I had many little helping hands assist me in creating a big bucket of Eby ochre. From building the drying tables to cleaning and levitating the pigment, my helpers (who ranged from 1½ to 11 years old) were fun to play with … and the pigment colour we ended up with was beautiful—the best so far!
Come June, I was back in British Columbia meeting with rock hounders from the Rock Lover’s Pitstop. Together we visited the Vermillion Bluffs outside Princeton—where I collected some amazing red ochre—and Blakeburn looking for rocks and soils that could create local colours. While I had a really good time, this trip also had it’s moments of anxiousness as some of the roads had breathtaking drop-offs, and then, of course, there was the bear we met on the trail …
In July, I think I got a little off track and became obsessed with making blue from the cobalt I collect up in Cobalt … After weeks of experiments I had still only found successful ways of not making a bright blue, but I did create my own arc furnace (which I think was pretty cool).
In August I headed out to Eastern Canada and visited some pretty amazing places with rich local colours—St. Malo in Quebec, Sackville and Chaplin Island in New Brunswick, and Lochaber, Sunnybrae, and Paint Brook in Nova Scotia. It was especially fun to go rockhounding across Nova Scotia with my brother, Aaron. I also attended White Rabbit in Upper Economy, as an Artist in Residence. And, on our way back to Ontario I stopped by my favourite paper makers at the Papeterie Saint-Armand in Montreal where the whole family got a personal tour of their shop (and even got to taste what raw paper is like!).
When Reiner and Maggie wrote me in September and told me about a vein of glaucanite they had found in Lowville, Ontario I knew I needed to visit before the snow flew. This was a rare day, sunny and warm, I thoroughly enjoyed my time collecting rocks in this village with the sand and waves. Later in the month I traveled to Edmonton, Alberta and visited with Mike at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. It was a great trip, Mike having collected some samples of local soils for me to take home and even taking me on a little dig in an outlying field.
It was exciting in October to have a late season woad harvest. With the snow falling—and ice packed between the leaves—I doubted whether I would see any blue pigment at all. But, this was probably the best harvest I’ve had to date! Here, too, I had helpers (with Michael being especially involved and braving the elements with me).
In November I was traveling again … but this time heading south! Thanks to the Soil Science Department at the University of Saskatchewan I had the opportunity to present at this year’s Soil Science Society of America international convention in the Tampa Convention Center. Besides getting to present on the Atlas of Canada’s Local Colours, the chance to hang out with soil scientists, like my friend Ken (an artist in his own right), was great. This was also the month when I installed a new icon of Saint Cecilia in the church of Saint John the Evangelist in Elora, Ontario.
Seeing an article I wrote published in Taproot magazine this December was a nice end to the year. I don’t read a lot of magazines, but I like this one and the chance to share my work in local colour within their community was pretty exciting.
2013 was truly an exceptional year—my heartfelt thanks to all of my family, friends and colleagues for your generosity, hospitality and support in my art. You are all a wonderful source of inspiration to me.