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

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.

Ahem.

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?

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.

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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

The Case of the Purrrrloined Kitten

When my daughter was in primary school, fundraising activities were common occurrences. I remember quite clearly one day in December when she and a group of friends spent a chilly winter afternoon going door to door selling bread. They came home  a couple of hours later with a sizable order list. And a kitten.

When I asked where the kitten had come from, the kids said they had found her shivering in a ditch by the side of the road, presumably abandoned. The kitten was a tiny little thing, maybe five weeks old, and my daughter begged me to keep her. Since I have a hard time putting out an animal once it has come into my house, I really couldn’t refuse.

Tabitha in Bed  (Photo ©Alyson Champ)

Tabitha soon became a most cherished member of the family, and never for a moment did I regret taking her in. I also never questioned the “kitten in the ditch” story that the children told me. We live in the country, and, sadly, animals are abandoned by the roadside all the time.

Five years or so later, my daughter came up to me one day and said, quite out of the blue,

“Mom, we need to talk.”

Now, I don’t know if you have ever been the parent of a teenager, but if you have, you know that those aren’t words that you really want to hear. Fearing the worst, I sat down to listen to what my daughter had to tell me.

And quite a tale it was.

“Remember when we brought Tabby home and I told you that we found her in the ditch?” my daughter said to me.

“Yes.” I said.

“Well….we didn’t really find her in the ditch,” my daughter confessed, “we stole her from the farmyard down at Pam’s.” She paused, ” Are you mad?”

Was I mad? well, not really, though I wasn’t pleased that I was deliberately deceived by a bunch of children. Although I must say, I was a little impressed that they all stuck to their story- for years, in fact. And what’s more, they had first tried to persuade all the other mothers to take the kitten, with no success. But in the end, my daughter was confident she knew how to sucker me into it. And sucker me she did.

Tabitha is seven now, and we love her as much as we did the day that she came into the house tucked inside a child’s coat. She also makes appearances in my artwork from time to time, as below.

Tabby 5×7 painted paper collage on panel, © 2012 Alyson Champ

Birches

If you were to find yourself out in our back pasture in January, this would be the view. I’m sure that months into our long, cold, Canadian winter I won’t be so fond of the sight of snow, but looking at these nice cool blues was a treat in the hot days at the end of summer.
Birches – 12×16 Painted paper (acrylic) and found paper on panel © 2012 Alyson Champ

This collage is my first serious attempt at incorporating found papers into an artwork. “Birches” is made of papers hand painted with acrylic, painted wrapping paper, and printed magazine stock. I’m pretty happy with the result and will probably try it again. It could be a handy way to do some recycling!

Getting Back to Normal

Wherever that is. 

I’ve got a teenager who has gone away to college and a husband who is no longer in a wheelchair- although he is still on crutches- so it is getting easier to put in some daily consecutive hours in the studio. And what am I working on?

It is August, so it must be…

Snow!

“Birches in Snow” a collage in progress

I am working with my usual acrylic painted papers with the addition of some found papers mixed in. The plan is to create the birch trees using magazine stock, having the print stand in for the grey of the trees. I’m curious to see the end result. 

When I’m not in the studio or in the barn, you can usually find me in the garden. It has been a dry summer here in St. Crazy, but the only thing in the garden that seems to be suffering is the zucchini- a mixed blessing, really. I usually end up foisting them on people. Not so this year, though.

But check out the cabbage! I grew them under floating row covers this year and they are slug-free perfection.

Photo copyright the artist.

I know you’re jealous.

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.

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!