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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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”
and some photos of Wellington for you to drool over. Yes folks, this is a barn(!)…..
An indoor riding arena…
Are you drooling yet?
Daisy, a miniature Dachshund, and Arnold, a Dachshund cross, are the much loved fur children of Margot and Tommy MacKinnon. The MacKinnons kindly submitted to my weird request to photograph their dogs wearing their doggie sweaters with a view to including Daisy and Arnold in my Well Dressed Dogs collage series.
Daisy and Arnold are something of a study in opposites. Daisy, the smaller of the two, is nevertheless the louder and more assertive- definitely a wild, feisty female.
Arnold, on the other hand, has more of a laid back vibe going for him. He is lovably goofy (but polite) and will do pretty much anything for food.
Eventually I settled on the design for two separate collage portraits (both keeping the chair idea) which I hope revealed a little bit of each dogs personality. The preparatory drawing for Arnold is below:
If you would like to see the step by step progression of this collage, please check out my Facebook fan page. Photos are posted there.
There have been a couple of eureka moments in the past couple of weeks. One such moment came when I found a reference photo I thought I had lost forever (Filing system? I don’t need no stinking filing system!) and the other moment came to me after watching the work in progress of fellow collage artist Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson.
After trying out rigid, acid free mat board and then canvas, which were better than the paper but still posed problems, I tried out medium density fiberboard, or MDF, as a support surface and this I liked: it’s rigid and stable and smooth. Unfortunately, it needs to be completely sealed to make it archival and safe.
I chose to seal the panels with black gesso because my idea at the time was to have a little of the black background show between the pieces of paper to give the collages a stained glass appearance.
The problem with the black gesso was that it was so dark that I had to work blind; I couldn’t transfer my drawings onto the black surface because no pencil, chalk or charcoal was really visible on the black. Nor, as it turned, was the stained glass effect quite as appealing as I had hoped. So, what to do?
For a while I continued working as I had simply for the lack of a better method. And then I happened upon Elizabeth’s work (shown below) and EUREKA! She draws directly on the panel and then preserves the drawing, while also sealing the panel, with a clear, acrylic sealant. Duh! Now why the heck didn’t I think of that?
What’s On the Easel?
Quite a lot, actually! Thanks to some generous friends, I now have many more reference photos for my Well Dressed Dog collage project – yeah, I know I keep changing the name of the series but I swear “Well Dressed Dog” is it!
I’m also continuing to work on my large collage “Mara Under Water”. Check out the drawing and prepped panel below:
This week, I almost managed to finish another collage, my second rooster to date. The very handsome subject of this collage is our own rooster, Pretty Boy Floyd.
He knows he is good looking. I’m not sure if my hens have an opinion.
It was a funny week here in St. Crazy, both weather-wise and art-wise. The weather was all over the place: we had bitter cold, then above freezing temperatures, sleet, freezing rain, and snow. Now we are back to bitter cold again. Winter in Quebec provides a little something for everyone, I guess.
As for art projects, there was also a little bit of everything. My plan was to continue with my Clothed Dogs series of collages. I was waiting for an opportunity to photograph a friend’s mini-Dachshunds in their sweaters but the weather conditions and my schedule were not co operating. I did get as far as photographing one of my own dogs, though. Here is Toby looking smashing in a royal blue, form fitting, little knit number.
With my dogs- in- sweaters plans thwarted for the time being, I shifted my attentions to making the preparatory drawing for a big collage that I had been planning for several months. I was having a good time working on that one until I realised that I wouldn’t be able to get beyond the drawing stage. The reason? My big garage/studio does not yet have proper heating (not good when it’s -20 degrees C) and my indoor spare bedroom studio lacks adequate workspace to accommodate the large panel. So…what to do?
Happily, mid-week my husband came home with a bag of cast off neckties- a gift from his father (thanks M.) – to add to my Cache of Truly Hideous Neckties, bits and pieces of which regularly appear in my collages. Check out these babies:
Now, when you look at these ties, I don’t know what comes to your mind, but to me they said, “Rooster!”. Lucky for me, I had already made drawings for some rooster collages which hadn’t gotten beyond the planning stage, (Hmm…anybody else beginning to notice a pattern here?) which meant that a fair bit of the work was already done. I simply had to get a-gluing. Here is the result:
There are still some small details on the image to work out, but he is very nearly complete. And, I am pleased to add, he is already sold.