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!

Good News

2013 is certainly off to a good start!

Word came to me yesterday that my collage “Saratoga” was sold by the Art Rental and Sales Service of the Stewart Hall Art Gallery, Pointe-Claire, Quebec. I was happy to have two collages included in the 2012/2013 collection, and now I’m doubly chuffed that one of my collages has sold. A big thank you to the gallery staff for making the sale!

Another little surprise that arrived in the mail was a letter of invitation from The American Academy of Equine Art to participate in their “The Horse in Fine Art, 2013” exhibition. The exhibition will run concurrently in two venues: At the Anne Wright Wilson Gallery of Georgetown College, in Georgetown KY, and at The Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art in Marietta GA, which is near Atlanta. The Horse in Fine Art Exhibition will be on display during the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event at the Kentucky Horse Park near Lexington, the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, and the spring season of Thoroughbred racing at Keeneland.

Now a word of caution, being invited IS NOT the same as being IN. My work still might not make the cut. However, as they say in Hollywood about the Oscars, it’s an honour just to be nominated!

For more information about the AAEA, just click the link here.

I’d better get working!

New Year, New Work

As previously stated on this blog – usually around this time of year in fact- I’m not a big fan of resolutions. Not resolutions themselves, my objection is specific to the New Year’s variety. I never break ’em, ’cause I never make ’em. Yes, folks, it’s really that simple. Can you feel a “nevertheless” coming? I can.


Nevertheless, this year I made a point of reviewing my artwork, just to see what I had accomplished in our Annus Horribilis, 2012. Not as much as I would have hoped; this is normal. Given the circumstances though, the output wasn’t too bad. What did concern me a bit is the way the work is tightening up.

By tightening up, I essentially mean that my collages are becoming more realistic and highly detailed in their quest to become like paintings.  Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that I’m not exactly sure that this is the artistic direction in which I want to be moving.  I have struggled with this in my painting, too. Loose is hard for me.

This art-related tightness is an odd habit because I don’t think that I’m an especially uptight person. These days my blood pressure is around 90/60. I suspect that if I were any less uptight I might actually be comatose. If you are reading this blog while you are in a coma and I have offended you with my offhand comment, I apologise.

The other problem with obsessively detailed artwork is that the works take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to finish.

Now, if I were making union scale wages and was paid by the hour, this might actually be an advantage. I once sat in a hospital waiting room and watched a cleaning woman go about her work sooo slooooowly, seemingly counting each step, each movement, always with one eye on the clock, I could only conclude that if she had worked at a normal pace, she probably could have finished her shift in an hour. And then, no doubt, she would have efficiently worked herself  out of a job.

Not for me the life of the wage-slave. No. As it stands though, if I want to maximize my creative output….something’s gotta give.

What are my New Year’s resolutions you ask? Here, I’ll tell you:

Keep it simple, stupid.
I’m not willing to go to no details, so judicious use of detail only.

Have fewer values, but have them really count.
No, I’m not becoming a nihilist; this is an artistic decision. Instead of trying to reproduce the depth and realism of a painting, I’m going back to a value scale of three or four values maximum.

Good design is everything.
Amen to that.

Here is the first completed collage of 2013, and, yes, I am attempting to be true to my resolutions.

“Who, me?” © 2013 Alyson Champ
9×12 painted paper collage on cradled mdf panel.

So. What do you think?

A Christmas Tale

This play appears in the current issue of Sheep Canada Magazine.

A Christmas Tale
A Play in one act

Cast of Characters:          
Flopsy – a ewe                                  
Dora – a ewe
Frank- a ram                                    
 Barn Cat
Floyd- a rooster                                 
Juliet- a ewe
The Ewe Chorus                               
 The Forgetful Farmer

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the barn,
many creatures were stirring, for the lights were left on…

Two ewes at the feeder picking through the leavings of their evening meal.

Flopsy:                  Can you believe it? She left the lights on in here AGAIN!
Dora:                     I know, eh? All that talk about what picky eaters we are, how much hay we waste, and she goes and leaves the lights on. Sheesh! Talk about waste! Hey, what time you think it is?
Flopsy:                  Dunno. Pretty late I guess.
Dora:                     Hmm.  Must be something going on. This is late, even for her.

Frank the Ram saunters over, looking for a snack.

Frank:                   Ladies. What’s up?
Flopsy:                  It’s late; the lights are still on; nobody seems to be around.  Any idea what’s going on?
Frank:                   Christmas.
Ewes:                   Christmas? 
Frank:                   Yeah, you know, it’s one of those human holidays. See, there’s this pudgy bearded guy in a fuzzy red suit who throws presents at you from his magic space sleigh.  And then there’s, like, all this food and singing and parties and stuff. Oh, and visitors- lots of visitors.  Remember last year when those small humans came into the barn and chased us around while the other big humans took pictures with those camera thingies?
Ewes:                    Yes.
Frank:                   Well, that was Christmas.
Ewes:                    Oh. Great.
Frank:                   Oh yeah, and here’s the totally cool part…I almost forgot… (Frank noses around in the feeder) mhmph…alfalfa… awesome! Hey, do you ladies mind if I eat that?
Ewes:                    No, go right ahead.
Frank:                   (Chewing) Mmmm…this is pretty good…now what was I saying? Oh yeah, yeah, the cool part. So, I heard from this other ram back on the farm where I used to live that at midnight on Christmas animals can TALK!  
Dora:                     Talk? Like with your mouth?

Flopsy shoots Dora a look.

Flopsy:                  No, like talk with some other body part, you moron.
Dora:                     What? It’s a legitimate question.  Ever stand next to Juliet when we’re eating grain? I’m pretty sure that’s not her mouth talking.

Both ewes laughThen from across the barn-

Juliet:                    Hey, I heard that!!
Flopsy:                  Talking. What a strange idea. I wonder if it’s true … (pauses) …WaitDo you suppose maybe we’re talking RIGHT NOW?!
Frank:                    (Stops mid-chew) Whoa…We totally are talking! Oooooooh Freaky!

Frank, Dora and Flopsy all look at each other with amazement.
Just then Barn Cat appears from the shadows as he slinks through the sheep pen 
on his way to somewhere else.

Flopsy:                  Hey Cat, do you think animals can talk?

Barn Cat stops mid-slink.

Barn Cat:         Talk? Talk about gullible, you mean. You sheep will believe anything. Of course animals can’t talk.
Flopsy:             Well, if animals can’t talk, then how are we having this conversation?
Barn Cat:          What conversation? We’re not having a conversation.  You only think we are having a conversation. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have somewhere to be. Somewhere that isn’t here.
Cat performs ninja moves and silently exits.

Flopsy:                  Cats are SO weird. And what does he mean by gullible? Who’s gullible?
Dora:                     I think Gullible was that spotted ram we met a couple of years ago, remember?
Frank:                   Ladies, if I may interject.  Gullible means you believe stuff easily without requiring proof…. Like that time I totally invented cold fusion and fooled all those journalists and almost won a Nobel Prize…Oh wait… that wasn’t me. But you get the idea. Hey, is that some of that fescue and reed canary grass blend? That stuff’s awesome! You ladies mind?
Ewes:                    No, go right ahead.

Across the barn in the chicken pen, Floyd the rooster begins to crow.

Floyd ( singing):     I’ve been really tryin’, baby
                              Tryin’ to hold back this feeling for so long
                              And if you feel like I feel, baby
                             Then come on, oh, come on
                              Whoo, let’s get it on…..

Flopsy:   There goes that fool of a rooster. The lights are on so he thinks it’s day! Dumb as a bag of hammers.

Ewe Chorus:       SHUT UP!!!

Dora:                     I can’t believe the hens fall for that “Oh baby, baby” routine. Talk about, wait, what was  that word again?

Cat returns, this time with a mouse tail dangling out of his mouth. 
He mumbles because his mouth is full. 
Cat:                        Mullible.
Flopsy:                  What’s that, cat? By the way, you’ve got something stuck in your teeth.
Cat spits out the mouse.
Cat:                        Ahem. I said it before and I’ll say it again. You sheep are gullible.
Flopsy:                  Okay Cat, if you’re so smart, give me one example of how we are gullible.
Cat:                        In a word:  Freezer.

Dora looks slightly panicked    
Dora:                     What about Freezer?
Cat:                        Dora, what is Freezer?
Dora:                     Why, Freezer is a special place where only the Truly Good and Tasty animals go. A place where everything is perfect: the grass is green, the sun is always shining, the apples are ripe, and grain falls in gentle showers from the sky.  And there are no coyotes. Or intestinal parasites.
Cat:                        And it’s an actual place? (Commences gnawing on mouse)
Dora:                     Yes, of course it’s a real place, but why…..
Frank:                   If I may interject. Dora, perhaps Freezer is…  like a…um…a  metaphor. Not so much an actual place, more a state of complete peace, of perfect consciousness if you will….a sort of a goal on life’s path to spiritual enlightenment. (Frank sniffs the ground)  Oooh I think somebody missed a piece of corn….
Cat (choking):    Hack. Cough. Man, you have GOT to be kidding me! Do you seriously believe….

From across the barn, the rooster crows again.

Floyd (sings):   When a man loves a woman
                        Can’t keep his mind on nothing else
He’ll trade the world
For the good thing he’s found…

Ewe Chorus:       SHUT UP!!!!!

Cat:        Dora, look over there.
Dora:     Where?
Cat:        Over there at the turkey pen. Tell me what you see.
Dora:     Nothing. It’s full of emptiness.

Cat shakes his head in disbelief.

Cat:        Yes Dora, it’s “full of emptiness”. (making air quotes with his paws) And why is it empty, Dora?

Dora:     Because the turkeys were Truly Good and Tasty Animals, and they went to Freezer.

Cat:   Look, let me tell you something about Freezer, okay?  If Freezer is a state of complete peaceand perfect consciousness, then those turkeys began their path to enlightenment on the back of a truck. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was a Ford.
Dora (horror stricken) NOOOO! It’s a REAL PLACE!
Cat:        Oh, it’s a real place all right….
Dora:     Lalalala I can’t hear you!

Dora runs away and hides her head in an empty water bucket.

Flopsy:  Great. Now look what you did. It’s going to take hours to calm her down.
Frank:   Hey Cat! Why you gotta be such a downer, dude?
Flopsy: Yeah.  And I thought you said we couldn’t talk. That was a whole lot of talking for someone who doesn’t talk.
Cat:        I wasn’t talking. In fact, I’m not even here. I don’t exist. It’s all just your imagination.

Flopsy stomps on Cat’s tail.

Cat:        YEOOOOOW! What did you do that for?
Flopsy:    Did you feel that?
Cat licks his tail.
Cat:        Of course I felt that! What’s wrong with you?
Flopsy:  That’s funny. I thought you were a figment of my imagination.

Cat realizes to his embarrassment that he has just been outwitted by a sheep.

Cat:        I just remembered that… I forgot…to do……stuff.

Cat exits in disgrace.

Frank (laughing): Hey Flopsy, I don’t know if this whole “talking” thing is real, but I think you just proved the existence of Cat.

From across the barn, Floyd the rooster crows again.

Floyd (singing):                 And I can’t fight this feeling anymore
                                        I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for
                                        It’s time to bring this ship into the shore
                                       And throw away the oars, forever!

Ewe Chorus:   SHUT UP!!!!

Flopsy:           I can’t take much more of that rooster. Now he’s singing REO Speedwagon. 
We’re going to have to fight fire with fire here. Anybody know a song? Some Cole Porter?  
Blue Moon of Kentucky?  Anything?  Please!  Anyone?

Dora returns with a water bucket on her head.

Dora:   Oh I do! I know one! Pick me!
Dora begins to sing

Dora:                               Jingle bells, jingle bells
                                        Jingle all the way.
                                        Oh! what fun it is to ride
                                        In a one-horse open sleigh.

All the sheep join in.

                                        Jingle bells, jingle bells,
                                        Jingle all the way;
                                        Oh! what fun it is to ride
                                        In a one-horse open sleigh.

Outside, a car pulls into the yard.

Frank:   Uh oh, everybody pipe down! I see lights coming up the driveway.
Flopsy:  She’s home. Thank goodness! Now maybe we can get some rest. Shush, everybody! She’ll hear us!
The Forgetful Farmer enters the barn to turn off the lights.

Forgetful Farmer:     Oh for the love of Pete, what’s with all the racket? Knock it off you animals and go to sleep! Don’t you know it’s Christmas? Now goodnight! I’ll feed you tomorrow.

Forgetful Farmer turns off lights. The barn is now completely dark. The animals are quiet.

Flopsy (whispers):           Psst. Frank, do you think she heard us?
Frank (also whispering): Not a chance. Humans are totally clueless.
Merry Christmas!

Dogged by Dogs.

My daughter and I recently outed ourselves as “cat people”.  Not that we don’t love dogs, but we have come to realize that we share a deeper affinity for cats. Go figure.  Whenever I have been asked which is my favourite animal, until recently my response would have been most assuredly dogs! But now……?

To me this feels a lot like the time I discovered that despite many years of believing myself to a Generation X Slacker, I was actually a member of Generation Y. Indeed, I missed true Slackerdom by one year. ONE YEAR! Stupid demographers.

Anyway. You might be wondering what the point is. If you read this blog often, by now you have probably figured out that there is seldom a point.  If you are looking for real literature or thought provoking ideas, I suggest the library. And I, meanwhile, in spite of my cat loving nature, continue to make art featuring – yes, you guessed it- DOGS!

“Eric at the Beach” 6×8 painted paper collage on panel , © 2012 Alyson Champ

 “Eric” is available from me via my website.

You might also like

Arnold Would Like a Cookie
8.5X11 painted paper and fabric collage on panel, © 2011 Alyson Champ
“Arnold” is available at Mackinac’s Little Gallery