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!

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!



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 – – 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?

Everything’s Coming Up Daisy

Daisy and Arnold waiting for a treat. Photo by the artist

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.

Daisy standing her ground. Photo by the artist.

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.

Arnold, what are you looking at? Photo by the artist.

We had a good photo shoot on a nice mid-winter day. Outside first, but the space of the yard was a little too distracting for the dogs, so we went inside. In my mind’s eye I had imagined making a collage of the pair of dogs together on a chair. This was a little more difficult to arrange than I had anticipated: two dogs with two very different personalities and two different attention spans where the promise of a cookie is concerned. Arnold might have sat nicely for me all day. And Daisy? Well, forget about that idea.

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:

Arnold Would Like a Cookie – 8.5″x11″ pencil drawing
on paper ©2011 Alyson Champ

And for Daisy:

Pencil study for Daisy Wears Red (©2011 Alyson Champ

Happily, I was able to get the Daisy collage finished. And here she is:

Daisy Wears Red – 8″x7″ painted paper and fabric collage on panel, © 2011 Alyson Champ

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.

Trial and Error

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.

When I shifted the focus of my art making away from oil painting to painted paper collage, I found myself working in a medium for which I had had no formal training – in fact, I’m not sure if formal training really even exists in the art of collage. Although this was a very liberating experience artistically, it also meant that I no longer had any tried and true method or efficient working system to fall back on. Basically I have been making it up as I go along. My first collages were made on paper, which I found wasn’t really a heavy enough support and maddeningly prone to buckling.

My first serious attempt at collage: Rocky © 2007 Alyson Champ

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.

Yellow Iris (2009) in progress. Note the “puzzle pieces” of collage on the black background.

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?

Fine Feathers – in progress, ©2011 Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson, photo used with permission.

As you can see, Elizabeth works free hand on her panel. I still prefer to make my preparatory drawing on paper first, work all the kinks out, and then transfer the main elements of the drawing via tracing paper onto the panel. Having a drawing to refer to and a basic drawing of the planned collage on the panel itself certainly is making my life a lot easier! And if you think Elizabeth’s drawing is terrific, I encourage you to check out the finished collage on her website, It is fabulous!

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:

Pencil study for “Mara Under Water” © 2011 Alyson Champ

“Mara” transferred to the 20×24″ panel

You can see what a help Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson’s method has been.

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.

Pretty Boy Floyd – 9×13″ painted paper and fabric collage on panel, ©2011 Alyson Champ

He knows he is good looking. I’m not sure if my hens have an opinion.

Odds and Ends

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.

Toby in Blue – photo by the artist

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:

Photo by the artist

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:

Rooster – 9″x8″ painted paper and fabric collage on panel ©2011 Alyson Champ

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.

Rooster detail -front end….

…and back.