Culture Days Are Here Again!

September 27, 28, and 29 are designated as Culture Days right across Canada, or les Journées de la Culture as it is known in Quebec. There are seven thousand free activities organized by artists and cultural groups from coast to coast. This year I am part of this celebration of the creative spirit. My studio will be open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, from 10 am to 4:30 pm. I will be in there working, so feel free to stop by and check out my collage technique, ask questions, hang out and eat some cookies!

Photo by Anna Kiraly.
The studio address is 138 Rang Ste. Anne, in St. Chrysostome, QC- just about an hour’s drive from Montreal. See ya!

Order from Disorder?

Right now my studio looks like this:

I’m really happy to be getting walls at last, but not so happy with the chaos and dust. I can’t even get at my collage supplies at the moment. Fortunately, I could lay my hands on my old portable easel which I dragged into the house so I could start something at least resembling work.
Today I started an oil painting, something I haven’t done in a while. I have a total of FOUR commissioned oil paintings to execute in the next little while, and I feel very out of practice since I haven’t held a brush for that purpose in over a year. I thought I needed a  warm up instead of diving right into the commissioned work, something to take the pressure off a little.

I spotted the photo of a pretty pony filly on a friend’s Facebook page a while ago and asked if I could use the picture as a reference. I made the drawing a couple of weeks ago.

This morning I transferred the drawing to a small, square panel.
First, I like to figure out where the main dark areas will be. 

Then I do a general “blocking in” of basic colours in the dark to mid value range. I always marvel at painters who can finsh a painting in sections.  I was taught to bring all the parts of a painting along at the same rate.
I can still hear one of my old painting teachers bellowing, “START EVERYTHING AT THE SAME TIME; FINISH EVERYTHING AT THE SAME TIME!” Or maybe it’s just because I am using his old portable Jullian easel and it’s HAUNTED!

Having hit the point where I am simply moving paint around, this is as far as I could get today. I will try to get her finished tomorrow.

The Swing of Things

Hmmm…monthly blog posts seem to be all I can manage these days. Still, I suppose monthly is better than not at all.

Summer is in full swing here on the farm. Crops are getting tall; roosters are getting fat, and the garden has sped into that uber productive phase of mid-summer. We recently arrived at the “if we don’t grow it, we don’t eat it” point of no return. Goodbye, supermarket produce!

And mostly it has been a good summer. Sure, some crops fail, but far more are succeeding. We tried to grow some new varieties this year. I couldn’t resist the name of this lettuce in the seed catalogue: Drunken Woman! Isn’t she lovely? Tasty, too. Not quite sure how she got the name, though.

A few years ago I bought a small black currant bush and plonked it into the vegetable garden. It has bloomed for a couple of years, but never produced fruit – until this year! The black currants are just about ripe, and the small bush is weighed down with fruit. I’m thinking about jam…

Here are a few more garden photos to whet your appetite.
Genovese Basil

Green Bush Beans

A nice crisp lettuce – I forget the name!

Ruby Red Chard

Loads of red currants
Oh, were you expecting some art? Yes, there is that, too! Here are a few recent pieces.
“Colorful Gray” 10X8″ painted paper collage on cradled panel.

“Flower Box” 5×7 painted paper collage on panel.

“Thought” 24X24″ painted paper collage on cradled panel.

Long Overdue

It’s a good thing that this blog isn’t a library book or I would be in some serious trouble. Yes, it has been a while.

Spring did finally happen here and summer has just begun. The crops are growing and our farm is bustling with activity. The studio has been a busy place, too.

This is the second year of my affiliation with Mackinac’s Little Gallery on the lovely resort of Mackinac Island, Michigan.

These are some new pieces which are available at the gallery:

“Arch Rock” 8 X 6 painted paper collage on panel
$245 US

“CYC Race to Mackinac” 10 X 10 painted paper collage on panel.
$325 US

“The Iroquois Hotel” 4 3/4 X 9 painted paper collage on panel.
$260 US
I am also very happy to announce my new affiliation with Solaris Gallery of Versailles, Kentucky. If you are in the Lexington, KY area, stop in and check out the beautiful, varied work.  Besides art, the gallery holds a bunch of regular events, including a philosophy club!
These equine collages are currently available at Solaris:
“Capture the Wind” 7 X 5 painted paper collage on panel.
$215 US

“Pinto” 7 X 5 painted paper collage on panel.
$215 US
And, of course, new work is also available on my website here

A Good Month for Shows

So far it hasn’t been a great month for weather. However, April IS turning out to be a good month for art exhibitions.

Along the English River 
20 X 24 painted paper collage on panel
“Along the English River” is currently on display at TAG, the public art gallery of the town of Cornwall, Ontario. A friend kindly let me know that my collage had received an honourable mention from the judges. I was unable to attend the opening, so this bit of information came as a pleasant surprise. TAG (The Art Gallery) of Cornwall is at 168 Pitt Street. Opening hours are from  10 am- 5 pm, Wednesday to Saturday.                     The exhibition is on display until until May 10th.
Capture the Wind
7 X 5 painted paper collage on panel
“Capture the Wind” is part of the American Academy of Equine Art’s Spring Invitational Exhibition and is currently on display in the Anne Wright Wilson Fine Arts Gallery, Georgetown College (corner Mulberry and East College Street), in historic Georgetown, Kentucky. If should find yourself in the Lexington KY area this spring, I hope you will check it out. The exhibition runs from April 12 – May 24th, 2013.
Three Greys and a Bay
14 X 20 painted paper collage on panel
And last but not least, “Three Greys and a Bay” (above)  is on the wall of the Marietta Cobb Art Museum,  Marietta, Georgia. The museum (pictured below) is situated about 15 miles northwest of Atlanta.
Marietta Cobb Museum interior
Marietta Cobb Museum exterior
The exhibition is on view from April 13 – June 30th.  Opening hours are from Tuesday through Friday: 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m, Saturday: 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m, and on Sunday: 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

The Darling Buds of April

We are still waiting for spring.

I’m starting to think that this slow spring is some kind of seasonal protest. Maybe Winter overslept and just refuses to get out of bed. Or perhaps Spring is “working to rule”, hoping to wrest better job conditions, pay, and benefits from Mother Nature. Whatever the case, the outdoors are uniformly drab.

When I look out the window, I see our yard is a field of mud and construction debris leftover from the Great House Jacking of 2012. On a good day, the mud is frozen; on a bad day, my dogs coat the ground floor of our house with it.

When I look out the window with my mind’s eye, I see the yard as I want it to be: green grass, a lush canopy of trees, and flower beds all a-bloom. I think about where I would like to plant flowers and fruit trees, what colour palettes and garden designs I want to use, where I would like to put a walk way or steps, a raised bed or two…

Sadly, we are a long way from that reality. For the time being, I content myself with making some floral collages. Whatever it looks like outside, the garden in my studio is in full bloom and awash in colour!

Spring Iris I 
7×5 painted paper collage on panel, 
© 2013 Alyson Champ

Spring Iris II
9X9 painted paper collage on panel,
© 2013 Alyson Champ

Irises in bloom? In April?? No, not really.  But hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?

Spring Has Sprung…..Not!

Spring officially arrived here a couple of days ago. It was, of course, ushered in by a snow storm. This is what my studio entrance looked like on the vernal equinox.
And as I look outside the window of my office right now, I see that it is snowing. Again.
I know I’m not the only one looking forward to a change in temperature. Our sheep were shorn last week and now they find it too cold to go outside. The chickens remain trapped in their coop. Even the barn cats don’t care to be out much. I should say that I use the term “barn cats” loosely. Yes, we do have some cats in the barn, but I also have three who objected to the cold winter temperatures so much that they took up residence in my studio and are now studio cats. Safe as they are from the elements, it’s practically impossible to get them to go outside. Honestly, who can blame them? They know they have it good!
From left to right they are Trinket, Penny, and Primrose in the box. Primrose spends a lot of time in boxes. So much so that she is featured in my newest collage, appropriately titled “Cat in the Box”
“Cat in the Box” 9×12 painted and found paper and cardboard on cradled mdf panel.
Yes, part of the box in the collage is made from a real box. Collage is fun like that!

The Call

For the past couple of years we have had a raven hanging around our farm. Depending on where you live, this might not seem all that unusual. But we have a lack of ravens here in the Chateauguay Valley. I don’t know why. They are abundant nuisances in some parts of Quebec, but strangely absent here- until recently.

I heard our raven before I ever saw him (or her?). Throughout the summer, Raven would come to visit early in the mornings, establish himself on the roof of our house, and announce his arrival with his song of “quorks” and “gronks” – usually waking us up.

Soon enough, I started seeing Raven in the trees near our pasture. Sometimes he would sit watching me from his perch atop a telephone pole. I would call out to him, and he would answer me with a throaty “gronk!” and then fly away. Clearly we had developed some sort of relationship.

The closest encounter I ever had with Raven occurred one morning when I was on my way out to the barn.  I stepped out through the back door, and Raven, who had been sitting up on the roof of our house, suddenly flew down right over my head. I looked up just as this large, sooty black bird passed so close over me that I could have reached up and plucked a feather off his wing. I think he was teasing me.

Raven still comes around from time to time, although it has been a while since he stood as sentry up on our roof. These days I usually hear him more than I see him, but I always know it’s him:  the call is unmistakable. Below is the first collage of what I plan to make into a Ravens series.

“The Call”  
24×24″ painted paper and fabric collage on cradled panel © 2013 Alyson Champ

“The Call” detail

Horses and More Horses

Some new horse themed collages hot off the work table. The post parade at Saratoga is a favourite horsey subject of mine. I love the riot of colour that is Saratoga in the summer: the candy striped awnings,the lush green landscape, the flamboyant crowd of spectators, the jockeys’ vibrant silks.  And then, of course, there are the colours of the horses themselves: browns, blacks, bays, chestnuts, and- least common – the variety of greys.
“Three Greys and a Bay” 14 x 20 painted paper collage on cradle panel. Copyright  Alyson Champ 2013

“Three Greys and a Bay” detail

I had fun trying to capture the look and colour of the wet track with collage paper, let me tell you!

And speaking of colour, the inspiration for the above collage came to me from some reference photos taken by my friend and fellow artist, Kimberly Kelly Santini. Kim specializes in canine art, and she is one of the best colourists I have ever seen in any subject matter. If you are not familiar with her work, I encourage you to check it out. Click here.

The next collage was inspired by the Rolex Three Day Event in Kentucky. Eventing is a discipline which I find both amazing and frightening: amazing in the incredible versatility of both equine and human athlete; frightening because there are some seriously scary accidents- usually in the cross country. The collage below  depicts the calm, restrained beauty of dressage.

“In the Moment” 10 x 8 painted paper collage on cradled panel. Copyright Alyson Champ 2013
My husband kindly constructed a batch of 24 X 24 cradled panels for me to use as supports for new collages. So will it be more horses, or something else? Hmmm…..What do you think?

Get Out Your Woolies

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that in addition to my work in the the art studio, my husband and I also run a mixed farm of some forty acres. And on this farm we have some vegetables, small fruit, chickens, turkeys, ducks and, of course, our famous flock of sheep. Famous flock of sheep? If you don’t believe our sheep are famous, just ask the neighbours. Maybe infamous would be a better description.  I mean the sheep, not the neighbours.

When I have a little spare time, I work with the wool  which we have in bountiful supply from our Border Leicester ewes. I like to spin the wool and I like to knit, although I am not especially adept at either. Still, it’s the closest thing I have to a hobby. Through keeping the sheep and working with their wool, I have also met a number of interesting and talented people. One of these people is Johanne Ratelle of L’Ourse Qui Danse alpaca ranch in Godmanchester, Quebec.
Johanne has been buying some of our wool clip to blend with her alpaca fiber. So when I received the invitation to attend the opening of an exhibition featuring the workings and wares of L’Ourse Qui Danse, of course I had to see what Johanne and her business partner/co-pilot Chantal were up to. And they have been up to quite a lot!
This huge contraption is a nineteenth century barn loom.

Some of Johanne’s beautiful weaving.

Skeins like candy!

More handiwork.

And more skeins- these with natural dyes and a detailed explanation of dye plants, materials, and mordants. The mustard yellow colour of the shawl below left was produced with onion skins. 

The red and candy pink dyes are made with cochineal. Yes folks, that’s ground up dead bugs. Sounds gross, looks great!

Below is super talented handspinner and knitter Amanda Carrigan giving a spinning demo on her nifty little portable wheel.

I feel the overwhelming urge to knit! Or spin! Or both!