The Chronicle of Wasted Time

Ninety percent art. Ten percent chickens.

 

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!

Farmageddon

Dumb Dora in the Doorway- photo © the artist

“You know, ever since 2011 began, crazy stuff has been happening. Trouble on all levels: here on the farm, in the Middle East … a lot of unrest … must be something to do with the planets.” my friend Anna-Maria said to me recently. From the start of lambing back in February, bad things kept happening on her farm. There were stricken ewes, rejected lambs, surprise pregnancies gone horribly wrong, outbreaks of foot rot and orf: it was a litany of disaster.

“Well,” I said, trying to inject a little levity into the situation, “maybe you’re getting a jump on the whole 2012 thing. Maybe the end of the world really is coming- and it’s starting on your farm!”

Anna-Maria laughed. “Shh, don’t say that!,” she said, “you might bring it on. I mean, it’s not like I’m really worried about the apocalypse, but why toy with it?”

Not being an especially superstitious person, naturally I scoffed at the idea that you could bring on your own bad luck. Besides, nothing was wrong on our farm…

The first thing to go wrong on our farm happened almost immediately. An older ewe, always a little peculiar, began acting really strangely. Although she continued to eat well, I often found her lying alone in dark corners of the barn. When she did move about, she was slow, her gait awkward, her expression blank and staring. I combined these symptoms along with her pre-existing quirks- compulsive lip licking and a crazy sensitivity to having her back scratched – and the search engine result was always the same: SCRAPIE. I phoned the vet.

As luck would have it, my regular vet was on vacation. An eager, new veterinarian, fresh out of school, arrived at our farm. He examined the ewe and agreed that her gait and nibble reflex were odd. She also had pneumonia and he treated her for that. When I asked him if he had ever seen scrapie before he admitted he hadn’t, but was nevertheless fairly sure he would know it if he saw it. He agreed that, based on the ewe’s history and her current symptoms (pneumonia notwithstanding), she was indeed a suspicious case. I was horrified. The vet told me not to worry, that the risk of scrapie transmission to humans was “theoretical” at best.

“Besides,” he added in all seriousness, “the disease has been in circulation for at least four hundred years and if it were transmissible to humans then the Scots would all be crazy.”

I felt so much better.

CFIA phoned me straightaway and placed our farm under quarantine. They arrived shortly thereafter to inspect my deranged ewe. Preceded as they were by their sheep beheading reputation, I was fearful at what the future might hold for my sheep.

After observing the ewe and bearing witness to her Exorcist –like reaction to having her back touched, the CFIA vet agreed that the ewe was peculiar (no dissent on that particular question), but as she appeared to be in good condition generally -her pneumonia was clearing- they opted keep her in quarantine until she either turned out to be genotype resistant, or for three months. I welcomed the inconvenience if it meant I got to keep my sheep. Thankfully, the worst was behind me. Or so I thought.

No sooner had our scrapie scare been dealt with than another ewe became sick, this time it was Dumb Dora. After the scrapie episode, I developed a sense of foreboding and began stocking up on supplies that I might need in case of sheep related emergencies. In addition to the extra syringes, gloves and antibiotics, I picked up a gallon of glycol to treat toxaemia- just in case. So it was no surprise really when Dora began exhibiting symptoms of toxaemia two days later. I congratulated myself on the purchase of the glycol.

A day went by and Dora showed no signs of improvement. I knew my regular vet was in the area, so I asked her to stop in and have a look, just to be sure. The vet examined Dora, confirmed the toxaemia diagnosis, and left me with instructions to feed the animal whatever she was willing to eat, and also to increase the dose of glycol- which I did.

I was dismayed to see no improvement in Dora by the following morning. If anything, the ewe looked worse, and in addition to the jaundice, lethargy and anorexia , she now had a new symptom: black urine. Black! That couldn’t be good…

“No, that’s very weird.” the eager, young vet said when I phoned the clinic. Clearly this was not toxaemia. His scientific curiosity piqued, he came out to the farm to have a look at the ewe and phoned me later to tell me that blood samples he had taken revealed that Dora was having a haemolytic crisis.

“A haemo- what -now?” I asked, confused.

“Basically, all her red blood cells have exploded,” he said to me, “that’s why her urine looked black. You haven’t been feeding her onions, have you?”

“Onions?” I asked. What kind of weirdo did this guy think I was!

“Well, it can be caused by excessive consumption of onions. I felt compelled to ask.” he said, clearly assuming I was some sort of weirdo. “So, since we’ve ruled out the onions that leaves us with an autoimmune reaction or copper toxicity. Copper poisoning seems more likely. You haven’t been giving the sheep pig feed, have you?”

“Pig feed? “ I asked, alarmed. “No, we only feed our pigs onions.”

“Excuse me?”

“I said we don’t have any pigs.”

“Oh.”

The prognosis for copper poisoning was not good and the source of the copper was a mystery. I wracked my brain trying to remember everything I had fed the sheep, what they could have gotten into. Had they chewed on water pipes? Was my grain somehow contaminated, a mineral block mislabelled? None of the answers seemed especially realistic. Only one possible solution remained.

The previous fall I had raised twenty Guinea fowl for the freezer. They proved to be my most ill conceived and expensive farming idea to date. By the time they had reached a suitable table weight, the Guineas had cost at least $25 in feed per bird, all of this excluding the cost of slaughtering them, plus the time and general aggravation of keeping them- to which I could now add the extra cost of vet visits and copper antidote for sheep. Worst of all, the Guineas were inedible; stewed boots would have been more appetizing.

The reason for the poor feed conversion ratio of the Guineas only became obvious when I shovelled out the litter from their pen. In addition to the shavings, I also shovelled out at least twenty kilos of feed, maybe more. For the want of a better place to put it, I buried the feed laced litter in the manure pile and I covered it up, thinking to keep it out of reach of my dogs. I guess I should have been more concerned about keeping it out of the reach of my sheep.

Over the weekend Dora’s condition worsened and I fully expected her to die. Unable to find anyone willing to shoot her, I resolved to have my regular vet come out first thing Monday morning and euthanize her. Monday morning came, and Dora was still down…until the vet arrived.

“You’re not going to believe this,” I said to the vet as she got her equipment out of the van, “but that ewe must have heard me on the phone to you. Fifteen minutes ago she got up.”

Sure enough, when we got into the barn, there was Dumb Dora, dopey as ever, but looking quite healthy, happily munching away with her flock mates. She was no longer jaundiced, her urine was a normal colour, and she didn’t appear to have lost much body condition. You would never guess that anything had happened to her.

“She actually looks pretty good,” said the vet, completely puzzled, “ but if you want to confirm the diagnosis of copper poisoning, we would have to do a necropsy and send the liver to P.E.I. for analysis. What do you want to do?”

I sighed and thought for a moment. At this point, if anybody’s liver was going on holiday to Prince Edward Island, it ought to be mine. “Oh, forget it.” I said, “Just leave her.”

Maedi Visna, caseous lymphadenitis, Chlamydia psitacci. The more time I spent researching sheep diseases, the more anxious I became. We hadn’t even started lambing yet; what else was going to go wrong? I was too embarrassed to phone the vet any more, especially since the receptionist had started answering the phone with: “Hi Alyson. What is it this time?”

Eventually and against all odds, Dora did get better. Our scrapie case turned out not to be scrapie at all, but a combination of pneumonia, overgrown feet and excessive Googling. I wish I could say that this was the end of our bad luck, but it was really just the beginning. Out of a flock eight ewes – in addition scrapie scare and copper poisoning- we’ve had two abortions, two retained placentae, one barely averted prolapse, ring womb , breech lambs, one dead lamb, a foot abscess, entropion , inexplicable lameness and now lice. Who knows what plagues summer will bring?

So the moral of this story is…. I guess there really is no moral. I’m still not entirely convinced that you can bring disaster your way by merely taunting it. Sometimes bad luck just happens. You learn what you can from it, and then you move on. Now I have some tough decisions to make. I know farmers always say culling makes the herd, but if I were to cull all the trouble makers from my flock, I would be left raising chickens, which, come to think of it, doesn’t sound like such a bad idea!

Sleepy in the Sun – photo © the artist

Hot Turkey Sandwiched

If I were a more hip, city dwelling artist, I might have a studio in an old warehouse or abandoned factory. Instead, as I am decidedly un-hip and rural, I have a studio in a converted garage on our farm. My studio has our barn on one side and backs onto the chicken run. It also features a spectacular view of the sheep pasture and our compost bin. No Brooklyn artist’s loft for me! But it has good light (most of the time) and is quiet enough and big enough to make it a pleasant workspace. Believe me, I’m not complaining.
At the moment, my studio is less remarkable for what is on the outside than for what is on the inside. It has become a bicycle storage area and a makeshift plant nursery. I have also taken on some roommates. Now, if I were a Brooklyn hipster and I told you my roommates were turkeys, you would probably think that they were other artists who didn’t clean up after themselves, or who didn’t pay their share of the rent on time. But since I live on a farm, if I were to tell you that I’m sharing my studio space with a bunch of turkeys, you can safely assume that they are actually turkeys, and not just people of the sort who would eat your last ice cream bar and then lie about it.

Turkey poults. Photo by the artist

I’m not sure what to make of these turkeys. They look a lot like chickens and they kind of act like chickens….except for some subtle differences. They are gawky little creatures, curious and uncoordinated, and they have large, grey, ever watchful eyes.
When I decided to raise turkeys this year, many people warned me about the fragility of turkeys and their inherent stupidity:
“They will get into the waterer and drown in it!”
“They will be too stupid to find their food or water and will starve to death or die of dehydration!”
“Don’t let them outside in the rain. They will drown themselves by looking up!”
And so on.
There are plenty of wild turkeys around here and I have yet to find groups of them drowned following a downpour, so how stupid can they be? For these little domestic turkey poults of mine, time will tell, I guess. Until their permanent pen is ready, they will continue to live in a big box in my studio. They have food and water and a heat lamp for warmth, and me for company during the day. I think I’m going to miss my fluffy little roomies when they move out. I certainly won’t miss the plants and bicycles- those are just in my way!
Tomato and cabbage seedlings. Photo by the artist.

What’s on the easel

I have recently completed another Well Dressed Dog collage. The subject of this one is my good
friend Brenda Castonguay’s dog, Sisi. Here she is:

Sisi’s Coat of Many Colours– 6×8 painted paper and fabric collage on panel, ©2011 Alyson Champ

Apart from being Sisi’s mommy, my friend Brenda is a fabulous photographer, who specializes in intimate, creative, family portraits. Check out her work here. And yes, in case you were wondering, many of my friends are photographers…..or turkeys.

Shh…It’s a Secret!

Yikes! No posts in over a month! Things tend to get a little crazy on the farm once spring rolls around and whatever time I have when I’m not out in the barn, I have been spending in the studio. Yes, I have been busy creating, but no, not really too busy to blog. The lack of blog updates had more to do with the nature of the work than with a lack of time.
A couple of months back I got an email from an old friend I first met in art class back in high school. My friend, Tracy Martin, and her siblings wanted to commission a collage from me to give to their mother on her birthday. The collage was to be a surprise and Tracy’s mom reads this blog (Hi Tracy’s mom!) so no posting images of the work in progress on the blog. Now the collage is finished and delivered, the birthday surprise has come and gone, and I am free to show what has kept me busy for the past month.

“Blue Heron” – 20×24 painted paper collage on panel ©2011 Alyson Champ
“Blue Heron” – detail
This collage was something of a challenge owing to its size – 20×24 inches- and my increasing predilection for detail . Also, I really wanted to do justice to the reference photo which was supplied by Tracy, a professional photographer of considerable talent. It isn’t everyday that I get to use such beautiful photography as a starting point. If you would like to see the original photo, it can be found on Tracy’s blog, Photo Sage. I hope you’ll spend some time looking through the photo archives. If you do, your effort will be richly rewarded, and you will find a multitude of images which are not only visually gorgeous, but which are also deeply moving. I encourage you to check it out. Tracy also has a more formal website, just click here.

Some Nice Local Press

I was a little surprised a few weeks ago when I received a phone call from Anne Gardon. If you are a Quebecker and an enthusiastic cook, chances are you know Anne as a food writer and cookbook author.
Anne, who is originally from France, lives a short distance from me, just south of St. Chrysostome. Not only is she a serious foodie, but she is also an excellent photographer and has taken all the pictures for her cookbooks. I encourage you to look up her books and check out the recipes and their very beautiful accompanying photographs.

We had a very pleasant meeting and I look forward to seeing her again when she comes back to interview my furniture maker husband, Andrew Carmichael. (More about that later) The article below is the result of my interview with Anne, and was published originally in the monthly St. Chrysostome newsletter, Info Communautaire, and is reprinted here with her permission. Merci Anne!

GENS DE CHEZ NOUS

ALYSON CHAMP, UNE ARTISTE AUX MULTIPLES TALENTS

Je suis toujours étonnée de découvrir à quel point la vie artistique est vibrante dans notre région. Savez-vous par exemple que notre municipalité abrite une artiste de réputation internationale?

Récipiendaire de plusieurs prix, Alyson Champ a longtemps été connue pour ses peintures de chevaux de course. Elle a immortalisé de nombreux champions de Blue Bonnets, ainsi que des superstars des circuits américains. Ses oeuvres font partie de collections privées et d’entreprises et elle est membre de l’American Academy of Equine Art qui tient chaque année la plus prestigieuse exposition de peintures équestres en Amérique du Nord.

Mais avec la récession aux États-unis et la disparition des courses hippiques au Québec, sa clientèle traditionnelle a fortement diminué et Alyson Champ a dû trouver d’autres moyens de gagner sa vie en temps qu’artiste.

C’est en travaillant avec des enfants – elle donne des cours d’art à l’école élémentaire de Howick – que lui est venue l’idée de se lancer dans le collage. Alyson utilise des papiers peints dans une variété de texture et de brillance qu’elle découpe puis assemble comme un puzzle et peint. Ses toiles, à la fois stylisées et réalistes, sont vibrantes de couleurs et ont parfois un côté comique, comme cette série de chiens habillés sur laquelle elle travaille actuellement. Elle a entrepris également une série illustrant les races d’animaux de ferme en voie d’extinction.

Malgré son changement de cap, de nombreux clients lui sont restés fidèles. « La réponse à mon nouveau style a été très positive et a même attiré de nouveaux collectionneurs » dit-elle avec satisfaction.


Photo of the artist, courtesy of Anne Gardon

Née à la campagne, tout ce qui touche à la nature est pour elle une source d’inspiration, les fleurs de son jardin, la lumière jouant à travers les branches des arbres, les vaches dans les prés, les moutons… Elle et son mari en élèvent une dizaine, ainsi que des poules, et en été des canards et des pintades.

Où trouve-t-elle le temps? me suis-je d’ailleurs demandé en l’interviewant, car Alyson Champ donne également des cours de violon. Oui, de violon, qu’elle a étudié pendant une dizaine d’années au conservatoire de musique de McGill.

Son parcours académique est d’ailleurs étonnant. En plus d’un diplôme en musique, elle possèdes un baccalauréat en philosophie et a suivi plusieurs cours de dessin et de peinture, notamment à l’école des beaux-arts Saidye Bronfman, dont elle s’est faite expulser car elle suivait trop de cours. Et aujourd’hui, elle se lance dans le filage de la laine (de ses moutons) avec l’idée d’en faire éventuellement des tapisseries.

Je pourrais vous parler longtemps de la beauté de ses collages mais, comme une image vaut mille mots, je vous encourage à visiter son site web – www.alysonchamp.com – où vous pourrez voir quelques-unes de ses œuvres récentes et où vous aurez également accès à son blogue.

Si la peinture vous intéresse, Alyson Champ donne des cours (aux adultes et adolescents) dans son studio.

Anne Gardon

What’s on the easel?

Spring is technically here, although you wouldn’t necessarily believe it what with the cold winds and intermittent snow. I continue to work on my series of Well Dressed Dogs, and have a fourth collage finished. Hi there, Arnold!

Arnold Would Like a Cookie – 10 X 8″ painted paper collage on paper, 2011 ©Alyson Champ

By the time July rolls around it will probably feel weird to be working on collages of dogs wearing sweaters. But for now, because of our cold weather, it remains appropriate. Well, as appropriate as anything I ever do anyway. Next dog up: Sisi!

Your Art Here

Photo courtesy of Line Thibault

No, this isn’t a picture of my living room. This is the Bruno Delgrange Saddles sales booth at the WEF in Wellington, Florida. Four of my recently completed collages are on display there. Three are shown below.

Photo courtesy of Line Thibault

This is by no means the strangest place I have shown my art. At various times I have tried restaurants,race tracks, banks, municipal spaces, private businesses, public libraries, and once (and only once) at a prestigious one of a kind craft show which had me showing my work in a barn – next to a pig pen! It’s one thing to have your work come home smelling like food and coffee…

I thought the Bruno Delgrange booth might be a natural fit for my horse themed collages. And as my friend Line had graciously offered to supervise the whole endeavour, I figured it was worth a try. It’s certainly a beautiful place. And no pigs!

Harmony – 6×8 painted paper collage on mdf panel, ©2011 Alyson Champ

Corgi – 8×6 painted paper collage on mdf panel ©2011 Alyson Champ

The Dance – 6×8 painted paper collage on panel, © 2011 Alyson Champ

Surf, Sun, Saddles and …Art?




Halt – Sandy Spicer and McGill, photo courtesy of Line Thibault

Every now and then a business opportunity arises which is just too good to pass up. No matter how frantically busy I think I already am, I can see I would be a fool to squander such a chance to expand the audience for my art.

I am fortunate to have a collector of my work who is not only a cherished client of long standing, but who, over many years, has also become a good friend. It is through my friend Line Thibault that I have recently been given the opportunity to send some of my collages down to Florida- to the winter horse capital of North America, in fact. Yes, my art is going to Wellington, Palm Beach County!

My friend’s horse trainer partner, Jacques Ferland, is the North American sales representative for French saddle maker Bruno Delgrange and they have a booth at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington. The booth needs decorating, so…..

What this means, of course, is that I have to stop what I was doing (Well Dressed Dogs, etc.) and concentrate on collages of horse-related subjects. The collages must be finished, varnished and framed, ready to go to Florida by the second week of March. Enough blogging! I have to get to work. Here is a recently finished horse collage called simply “White Horse”


White Horse – 7×5, painted paper collage on panel, ©2011 Alyson Champ

and some photos of Wellington for you to drool over. Yes folks, this is a barn(!)…..

White Fences Barn – photo by Sandy Spicer, courtesy of Line Thibault

An indoor riding arena…


A White Fences Arena – photo by Sandy Spicer, courtesy of Line Thibault

The grounds…..

Horse Paradise, White Fences Equestrian Community – photo by Sandy Spicer, courtesy of Line Thibault.

Are you drooling yet?