The Chronicle of Wasted Time

Art, farming....and more!


Winter Wonderland

A couple of weeks ago it looked like winter was gone from Southwest Quebec. The snow had melted, the days were warm, the sap was running in the maple trees, I started letting the chickens outside: all the harbingers of spring.

Then….BOOM….winter came back with a vengeance.

Hmmm…is spring coming? (Photo by Anna Kiraly)

Two snow storms in less than a week has left the landscape looking more like mid-January than early March. But, hey, I’m not complaining! I actually like the snow! For me it means more cross country skiing, and (as I have just discovered) more opportunities for sleigh rides courtesy of our neighbour and his horses.

Ti-Gars hitched, Yvon, and friend. (Photo by the artist)

Pine cone (Photo by Anna Kiraly)

If you have never had the opportunity to travel by horse power along forest trails dappled in sunlight and violet shadows, I urge you to add it to your bucket list. Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh!

And oh what fun it is to make sleigh ride collages!

Ti-Gars – 5×7 painted paper collage on panel, © 2012 Alyson Champ

Sleigh Ride – 8×10 painted paper collage on panel, © 2012 Alyson Champ

I’d Like to Be Under the Sea

When I was a small child, back in the days of vinyl records and naugahyde sofas, Ringo’s song, “Octopus’s Garden”, was one of my all time favourites. There was just something about the idea of being able to live underwater, to swim around with the fishes in a shimmering undersea garden of rocks and coral that was naturally appealing to a child. I guess that childish notion has remained buried somewhere in my subconscious because last year when I started seeing lots of underwater photos popping up on my friends’ Facebook pages, I was drawn to them immediately. The beautiful blues, strange lights and shadows, the sense of weightless exuberance of kids and adults swimming underwater got me hooked. I knew exactly what I wanted to do: a series of underwater collages!

Below is the first effort. Thanks to my cousins Mike and Elaine for the use of their family vacation photos.

Mara Underwater – 20″x 24″ painted paper collage on panel, ©2012 Alyson Champ

I’m putting the word out: If anyone has some underwater digital photos and you don’t mind them being used as reference material for artwork, send ’em along to me. I am always on the look out for more ideas and inspiration. You can email me here under contact in the website menu.

An Unusual Job

I recently completed a commissioned painting which was an unusual project for a couple of reasons: first, the visual content was fairly different from the subjects I usually paint or collage; second, the support, or surface that the painting was painted on, was odd. This particular oil painting, featuring among other things, cars, milk cans and a large adjustable wrench, was painted on an antique saw blade. Here it is below, photographed in two sections while still in my studio.

Tannahill Transport #3 – saw blade showing the dairy transport and three generations.

This unusual painting was created for the Tannahill family and is one of a series of saw blades I have painted for them. The series constitutes a visual history of the family transport business, a business which has been in operation in this corner of Quebec for a very long time. In fact, my older brother used to drive for them years ago, so seeing one of those big, green Mack trucks coming up the road always made me happy when I was a kid.

Below is the first blade (in three sections), painted about seven years ago.

Tannahill Transport #1 – saw blade with older trucks,

a family portrait,

and newer trucks in the fleet.

Not long after completing that first blade, I was commissioned to paint a second one. I think this one is my favourite.

Tannahill Transport #2 in two sections.

I especially like this section. Can you guess why?

Thanks Brian T. for letting me stand on your coffee table to photograph these blades. It was great to see them all together for the first time, and fun for me as an artist to be part of such a nice family project. If you find another blade you want painted, you know where to find me!

New Year, New Work

Yes, I know I’m a little late with the whole New Year thing, but I swear I haven’t been idle. Actually, the opposite is true; I have been rather busy of late. Strangely enough what has kept me so occupied hasn’t been collage, but rather a lot of painting. Good thing I never dropped the “fine oil paintings” from the banner of this blog! As there is no longer an oil painting section on my recently revised website, this blog and Facebook are the only places you will see this work. So much for swearing off painting.

Les voici, here they are:

The first is a portrait of my friend Eric’s beautiful daughter, Rafaëla, who was a model for my art classes last fall. I enjoyed the process of portrait painting so much – something I haven’t done in a very long time- that I had her come back to the studio and sit for me so that I could finish the job. The finished painting turned out very well, although it is now painfully obvious to me that I need new glasses.

Portrait of Rafaela – 17.5X13.5 oil on board © 2011 Alyson Champ (sold)

Most recently I completed a couple of small landscapes. The first one is an oil sketch on a little 6″x 4″ panel. If you think you might like to own it, just drop me a line. It is priced to sell at $95 CAD, and I will ship for free within Canada.

Bush Trail – 6×4 oil on panel, ©2012 Alyson Champ

Also recently completed is “First Snow( shown above, 10″x 12″ oil on canvas, © 2012 Alyson Champ).

This landscape is signed, varnished and ready to go. Yours for $415 CAD.

Autumn Bouquet
– 18″x 14″ oil with acrylic underpainting on canvas, ©2012 Alyson Champ ($490 CAD)

Yes, “Autumn Bouquet” IS the same still life from the last post where it was called “Autumn Still Life with Plums”. I’d like to say that I renamed it for some sensible reason, but the truth is I had forgotten what I called it. “Autumn Bouquet” is signed, varnished and available to hang on the wall of your sunny kitchen. Just drop me a line here.

And now it’s back to the glue again.

Still Life Step by Step

Although I have mostly been working on collages just lately, teaching an intro to painting class has kind of gotten me in the mood to pick up my brushes and paint. Last week, the class worked on a floral still life, and since the flowers were pretty and seemed to be holding up all right, I thought I would have a go at them as well.
I started by toning my 14×18 canvas with an acrylic wash of raw sienna, just to cut the cold, shockingly brilliant white of the acrylic gesso. I already had some acrylics out on my palette, so I opted to do the basic underpainting/blocking in with the acrylics.

Stage 1: acrylic underpainting (all images copyright of the artist).
The next morning, I made the decision to switch to oil paint, which is the medium I am most happy working in. It has been more than six months since I have actually worked on a painting, so I figured I needed to give myself every advantage!

Since the colour scheme of the still life was built on complements and near complements, I thought it would be a good idea to restrict my palette in order to achieve a less jarring, more harmonious appearance to the finished painting. My palette consisted of: titanium white, ultramarine blue, rose madder, permanent rose, cadmium yellow medium and cadmium yellow light. I also added a raw sienna, burnt umber, and sap green, although I wasn’t sure if I would need them. I really only needed the green, as it turned out.

Stage 2: refining the blocked in image, this time with oils.

By restricting the palette and limiting my colour choices, I ensured that the same basic colours- the blue/purple, orange/yellow – would appear throughout the painting. Those colours, plus titanium white, are, for example, the shadows on the white marguerites, the “grey” of the jug, the “white” of the table cloth, the “silver” of the teaspoon, and the “yellow” of the background.
Stage 3: a little more pulled together.

Painting is a process of decision making and refining of the image. In the photo above, you can see that I continue to define the areas of the flowers, leaves, the jug, and fruit. I also have some decisions to make about the drop off of the front of the table (Do I add it even though it wasn’t part of my view?) and the corner of the table edge at the back (Do I remove it even though it was part of my view?). In the end, I left out both the back corner and the front drop off: the back corner destabilized the composition too much, and the front drop off didn’t really add anything.
Stage 4: hurry up before those flowers die!

Painting a floral still life is a race against time- everyday it was a little different. By the third day, leaves and petals were falling, flower buds were opening, and some of the ferns were dead! I decided to add a few of the fallen petals and bits of fern where they fell. They conveniently helped to close up the too open spaces in the composition. I also decided to suggest the faint stripe of the table cloth for the same reason.
Autumn Still Life with Plums– 18×14, acrylic and oil on canvas, © 2011 Alyson Champ
By the afternoon of the fourth day, I knew I was going to have to call it quits: an evening drawing class meant I needed to re-arrange the studio. It’s hard to tell when a painting is really finished. I usually need to live with it for a while first. Right now, I’m not sure I love the very obvious counter weight of those plums. Certainly the perspective of those stripes needs a bit of adjusting, and possibly the table cloth itself needs to be toned down a bit, although, in my defense, the photo above is a bit bluer and colder that the actual painting- at least on my monitor. I can also see a couple of areas where the blending of edges is a bit too sloppy. Hmm…. It’s always something!

You Never Can Tell

Studio Tour 2011 – all photos by the artist (that would be me!)

The 2011 edition of the Hemmingford Studio Tour is now a thing of the past. The signs have been stored for next year, the number of visitors tallied, and no doubt planning for the 2012 Tour will soon begin.
This year, I exhibited my work at Roxham Farm, which is the home studio of watercolourist Susan Heller. Roxham is a delightful place, a real old fashioned farm which dates back to the first half of the nineteenth century, and retains its antique charm.

Roxham Farm

Because I am a self-employed artist and a farmer, I really don’t get out much. The weekend of the Tour was a pleasant opportunity to talk with other artists about our different techniques and media, and to chat about the art market. In Sue’s barn, I shared wall space with Sue, John Hodges, and Helga Sermat.

Watercolours by John Hodges (in frame) and Susan Heller, along with some wool for sale.

Helga hanging her cards .

More of Helga’s colour pencil work.

Some of my set up.

And some ducks.

The Tour was also an opportunity for me to see people I almost never get to see or haven’t seen in years, and also the chance to meet all kinds of new people. You never know who will come out to a studio tour; it really takes all sorts. Of course there were some artists come to check us out, and I met some local farmers and people from the area, some Montrealers out for a day in the country, and a few Americans. I also met a statuesque,blond, Swedish masseuse (and her dog), and a man who had built a trebuchet. Yes a trebuchet: a forty foot high medieval siege engine capable of hurling a three hundred pound weight a distance of six hundred feet. Now, that’s your winner right there, I think.

The Hemmingford Studio Tour

It’s that time of year again! No, not Christmas, but that is coming, too! The Hemmingford Studio Tour/ Circuit des Arts takes place this weekend, September 24th and 25th from 10 am to 5 pm. This year I will be moving my studio out to the farm of Susan Heller, 332 Roxham Road, where I am sharing wall space with three other artists: Susan Heller (watercolour), John Hodges (watercolour), and Helga Sermat (mixed media). This is the third edition of the Tour, and as always there is a beautiful collective exhibit at the Old Convent, 549 rue Frontiere, in downtown Hemmingford. If you are in the area, please stop in- I’d love to meet you! To take a look at the Tour brochure just click here . There you will find a map and details about the participating artists. And you never know, you might just get an early start on that Christmas shopping or find the perfect gift for a friend’s birthday. Keats wasn’t wrong, a thing of beauty is a joy forever.
I’m taking fifteen collages to the Tour this year, all varnished,framed and ready to hang. Here is a sample of what I will have on sale:
On the Bit – 6×4 collage on panel, © 2011 Alyson Champ ($165)

Miss Juliet – 10×8, collage on panel, ©2010 Alyson Champ ($245)

Pinto – 7×5, collage on panel, © 2011 Alyson Champ ($195)

Arnold Would Like a Cookie – 11×8.5 collage on panel, © 2011 Alyson Champ ($350)

I hope to see you there!

Winter Blues

Winter Blues– 16×20 painted paper collage on panel ©2011 Alyson Champ
As much as part of me dreads the coming of winter, another (weird) part of me actually looks forward to it.
I usually start thinking about the winter sometime in July, and this pondering of the ice and snow generally manifests itself in some winter themed art.
Since I am full on into collage making now and am anxious to try it out on landscape “paintings”  and other subjects, fittingly the need to represent winter came out as a collage: Winter Blues.

When my daughter asked me why on earth I was making a winter picture in August, I could only answer, “Because I like to look at blue.” Go ahead and imagine the appropriate eye rolling.

Still Horsing Around

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time on horseback: long trail rides, do-it-yourself steeplechases, make believe rodeos, stupid stunt riding- you name it. And FYI, jumping onto a horse from a second story window is only fun in the movies. Bumps and bruises aside, the freedom I felt as a young girl when galloping across a flat, open hayfield, my stirrups run up high so I could ride like a jockey, was a freedom unsurpassed. It was sheer joy. If you’ve never ridden barefoot and bareback on a pony through fields with the grass and flowers grown so high you could pick daisies with your toes, then, my friend, you have never lived.

Small wonder, really, that I never stray very far from the equine themes in my art. Yes, I am still working on that large non-equine collage, but I needed to give my eyes and brain a rest, so opted to create this smaller, equine collage.

“Capture the Wind”- 7×5 painted paper collage on panel, © 2011 Alyson Champ

The title of the piece was supplied by my friend Cathy Macfarlane-Dunn who, like me, also remembers the happy, freedom of galloping bareback on a pony. Thanks Cathy!

I’m delighted to report that my collage, “Saratoga” has been accepted into the American Academy of Equine Art Fall Exhibition. This is a very competitive, juried show which features some of the best equine art in the world, so I am very happy to know that my piece will be in such good company.

“Saratoga” 8×10 painted paper collage on panel © 2011 Alyson Champ

The 2011 exhibition takes place at the Scott County Arts and Cultural Center in Georgetown, Kentucky in September. The show will also appear online on the A.A.E.A. website. You may still take a look at the fine work in last year’s show here.
Happy Trails!

This Little Piggy

It seems like I’m always playing catch up these days – on the farm work, in the garden, in the studio; there are never enough hours in the day. I can’t really complain, though. Compared to our horrible spring of sick sheep and lambing disasters, summer so far has been a breeze! The garden is beautiful, all the livestock are healthy, my hens are laying, and the turkeys are getting fat. Oh, and there is art galore, too!

I have a few group shows coming up in the fall (yes, I know it is only July, but tempus fugit!), so I have been busy preparing work for those. I’ve got lots of panels ready
and lots of ideas. I also have a couple of large scale collages in the works (more on those later), but mostly I’m trying to put together a collection of small pieces which are quick and fun to make, and which, by virtue of their lower price tag, give people the opportunity to buy something beautiful and unique at a reasonable price.

I’ve just finished the first small collage for this collection. This little cutie is one of a litter of piglets I photographed at the Ormstown Exhibition this past June.

“This Little Piggy” – 4×6 painted paper collage on mdf panel, ©2011 Alyson Champ

The piglet’s mother is a sow named Fluffy, who is quite possibly the biggest sow I have ever seen. Fluffy isn’t exactly cute, but she is impressive, and her piglets are just adorable. If you are curious, there is a photo of Fluffy on the Ormstown Exhibition website here. And if you live in the Montreal area and you have never been to the Ormstown Exhibition…SHAME ON YOU!! Be sure to check it out next year. And if you go, be sure to check out Fluffy, too. When you are in the barns, if you see a strange, blond woman photographing pigs…that would be me!