Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cruising Desolation Sound then hiking Olympic National Park

We have been saying goodbye to summer by first cruising Desolation Sound and then hiking Olympic National Park. The waters of Homfray Channel are so quiet in mid-September; even the summer breeze has left the area to make room for the gales of October and November.

While we still had calm skies and warm mornings we took the Black Ball Ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, Washington to hike in the Olympic Mountains. It was fascinating to read that for thousands of years during the ice ages, these mountains were like an island surrounded by moving seas of ice.

The deep forests of the Olympic peninsula are a constant study in shifting light, and I am always anticipating that an image for one of my realist paintings of nature might be hiding in my camera.

I am especially drawn to the tiny views and fleeting moments of nature, for these create the language of symbol and metaphor that the unseen world uses to communicate.  The brief existence of a single raindrop contains all the wisdom of the Oracle.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why I make art

I do not visualize images in my mind.  I make my art in order to see it.  I ask my work to teach me, knowing that nothing is only what it seems but also something else.  This poem is one of my oldest teachers. It came to me in 1972 while listening a lecture about Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language at the University of Oregon where I was completing my Art Education.

In a painting of space
Of light and light, you paint to be alive.
Every part, and every part between the part is whole
And you are artist enough to call forth it riches.
For you there will be not past indifferent moment
There will be no forgotten place.

 I have remembered these phrases again and again across the years of my art-making.  They remain the ground upon which my choices for ways of working are made.     

 I moved to Cortes Island  in 1990 from Halifax, where I was teaching at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, because one cold dark morning I was shocked to not recognize myself in the mirror—I looked so tired and stressed. I gave up money and career advancement to become an overeducated oyster farmer who paints large photo-realist images of nature, makes frame drums for shamanic journeying, and continually creates the Journey Oracle card deck.

 I compare my best painting moments to singing Opera.  I strive for making that elegantly floating line of pigment unfurling like an effortless aria, all the while knowing years of discipline and practice are supporting the voice, and the mark.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

How I make a frame drum

I just finished a 19 image photo album on my Journey Oracle page on facebook showing how I make a frame drum.  Here are some of the highlights.

A frame drum has humble and yet powerful beginnings in a bath of "hot lime" and cold water.

I include pictures of me using a break knife and an ulu for preparing the hide, and show how I cut out the drum head.

I even share a secret for finishing the drum hoop to keep the dried drum skin from buzzing when played for the shamanic journey.

I demonstrate the most important first cut that fits the skin to the hoop and "sets the drum voice."

There are lots of images of constructing the back of the drum: punching holes and lacing thongs to anchor the back of the drum to the cedar withie that keeps the drum skin stable and balanced on the hoop.

Even when completely dry, the drum is not complete without the interlacement pattern I weave inside the cedar ring that becomes the hand hold for the drummer.

See the full story of how the Cloud Drum was made on facebook.