Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all the joy and wonders of the holiday season!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The architectonic photos of Lauma Cenne

From the Oxford English Dictionary:


Pronunciation: /ˌɑːkɪtɛkˈtɒnɪk/


  • 1relating to architecture or architects.
  • 2(of an artistic composition) having a clearly defined structure, especially one that is artistically pleasing:the painting’s architectonic harmony.

My friend Lauma Cenne, who is part of our text'art group, is a wonderful photographer. On a recent trip to Latvia she took many photos of the people and places of her parents' homeland, and she has generously offered to let me use some of them for my Cityscapes series. This is a first for me, as I have always relied on my own photography as a basis for my work. 

So much of the beauty of Lauma's photos comes from the textures of the old buildings: the crumbling brick, the peeling paint and the rusted metal. which I cannot replicate in fibre. But I am inspired by the interlocking forms of the buildings, the juxtaposition of old and new, the variety of shapes and the rhythm of the repeated elements.

I am excited to see what I can do with your images, Lauma!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reasons to visit Toronto

The City, Robert Delauney

Until March 2, the Art Gallery of Ontario will host "The Great Upheaval: Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection, 1910 - 1918". This period in European painting was a time of great energy and innovation. The show features over one hundred paintings and sculptures by Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani, Kandinsky, Chagall and many more.

French River, Kim Dorland

Jelly Shelf, Mary Pratt
For all you fans of plein air painting, Kim Dorland shows his landscapes in the tradition of the Group of Seven at the McMichael Collection until January 5. Visitors will have the opportunity to see works by this young artist displayed side-by-side those painted by Jackson, MacDonald, Carmichael et al. The exhibit is titled, “You Are Here: Kim Dorland and the Return to Painting.

From January 18 to April 27, the McMichael Collection will have a show devoted to the works of Canadian photorealist painter Mary Pratt. "She brings a sharply focused, contemporary lens to deceptively simple subject matter, demonstrating sophisticated skill rooted firmly in the history of painting."

It's always a pleasure to view the permanent collection at the McMichael, with its vast holdings of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven. Nestled in a beautiful woodland north of Toronto, the McMichael was built to optimize its setting in an inspiring natural environment.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Word of the day: repoussoir

Boathouses #2

Here's what an on-line dictionary had to say about the term.


noun Painting.
a figure or object in the extreme foreground: used as a contrast and to increase the illusion of depth.

View from the Academy

Quebec City: Old Town

Villaggio Toscano

This word was new to me, but looking through my files, I can see that I have often used this device in my own work.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Water Tower #4

Water Tower #4

SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) is assembling a 25th Anniversary Trunk Show, which will travel worldwide to promote the concept of quilts as art. Members are asked to donate a 10" x 7" piece, which will be put up for sale when the three-year tour ends. Water Tower #4 is my response to this call for entry.

The image is based on a photo I took while walking the High Line aerial park in New York. The photo is shown below.

I have updated my Artist Statement for a current show, which reads, in part:

"Heather’s cityscapes show the radiant transformation of an everyday exterior through the expressive potential of colour. She creates sensuous, aesthetic delight by a careful consideration of form and composition."

Yes, I love the interplay of neutrals in the urban landscape, but I also love to impose my own palette on that image, using hand-dyed cottons. These days, the vibrant colours seem to be my first choice.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Virtual exhibition

Water Tower #2

I am thrilled to have had my work included in this month's On Line Gallery exhibition on the SAQA website. Curator Linda Laird has put together fifteen images on the theme of "Looking Up, Looking Down".

She writes, "Do you ever get vertigo? I chose works, whether representational or abstract, whose upward or downward viewpoint gave me that wobbly feeling."

Some of the other artists are Alicia Merrett, whom I met at this summer's Festival of Quilts in the U.K., Cindy Grisdela, who purchased one of my SAQA auction pieces, and Leni Levinson Wiener, who coached me at the SAQA conference in Santa Fe. I am delighted to be in such excellent company!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Art Showcase at the Hudson Medi-Centre

Since the Hudson Medi-Centre opened at its new location, 465 Main Road in Hudson, its waiting room has been enlivened by the work of local artists. The show rotates every two months, and now it's my turn! I will be artist Number 16.

If you'd like to see five of my Cityscapes, they will be exhibited until January 18, during regular clinic hours. I will be followed by Susan Porter, known for her large, distinctive acrylic paintings of flowers, and later this spring, from mid-March to mid-May, Helena Scheffer's vibrant "colour explosions" in fibre.

If you'd like to have your work shown at the Medi-Centre, please contact me through my website.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Periwinkle challenge: Berkhamsted 2

The 12 by the Dozen group challenge for this quarter is to make a 8.5' x 11" art quilt, using the colour periwinkle. You can see my contribution below. The hand-dyed cotton used for the sky is a pale version of the periwinkle, and the larger building in the rear is composed of more saturated shades, all dyed specifically for this project. The other two buildings were made using the not-quite-right early attempts at getting to periwinkle.

Berkhamsted 2
Trying to dye to a very specific colour was a new experience for me, and I have to admit that in meeting this challenge, I learned a lot. I also took the opportunity to look for this colour as it is used by other artists, and that was fascinating.

Below is the original photo, taken in Berkhamsted, England this past summer.

If you'd like to see how the other members responded to this challenge, please visit the 12 by the Dozen site. The Big Reveal is scheduled for November 30.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Camera 4 Line Art+

For maybe a year I have had an intriguing app on my phone, but I've rarely played with it. My friend Colleen, who knows everything about this kind of thing, introduced me to it.

Camera 4 Line Art+ allows you to take a photo with your phone, and convert it to a line drawing. There are some controls that help you adjust the amount of black vs. white, or to reverse the image to a negative.

I decided that today was a good day to try it out, as we have had our first real snowfall.

The first image is based on a photo I took with my iPhone of the tracks in the snow on my driveway.

The second image is the negative of the first.

For artists who are inspired by photos, and wish to reduce them to lines and shapes, the potential is intriguing.

To find out more, go to the iTunes app store.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fibre Art & Conceptualism

Much of the fibre art I see when I go to museums falls into the category of Conceptualism, and viewing it helps me to understand a bit more about my own aesthetic. In other words, sometimes we can define our work by what it is not, as much as by what it is.

Here are two thought-provoking pieces I saw today at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec.

At right is Knitwork, by Vancouver artist Germaine Koh. The work was begun in 1992, when the artist unravelled a knit garment and re-knit the salvaged wool, using very large needles which can be seen in the foreground. Constantly expanding, Knitwork now is composed of dozens of recycled garments, and lengthens with each new performance by Koh at various presentations. At this point, more than 400 pounds of wool have been incorporated into the piece.

The piece was acquired by the Art Gallery of Ontario with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

At left is Fashion Plaza Nights, by Montreal artist Patrick Bernatchez. The work is composed of musical scores, a sound track, digital files, yarn, reels, a rotating platform, loudspeakers and photographs. It has been produced with financial assistance of the MNBAQ.

Here is the protocol that Bernatchez used to produce his work: "Once a month for a year, from nightfall until morning, Bernatchez took snapshots of the Fashion Plaza building of Montreal, where his studio is located.... He then transformed the photographs into musical scores. Bernatchez has imported here reels of yarn, which wraps itself around the loudspeakers playing these musical compositions. A cocoon will thus slowly form, covering a life to be born again."

My art reflects a preoccupation with form, composition and colour. I want my work to be appreciated for its visual qualities, which I would like to think of as timeless. At the same time, I am aware of the tradition of women's needlework, and its history as a vehicle for women's self-expression. I enjoy being a participant in the contemporary embodiment of this tradition. There is, at least, a kind of irony in using the traditional form of quilting to make modern urban landscapes. Does this make my work conceptual in any sense?

Not according to Wikipedia's definition of Conceptual Art:

Conceptual art, sometimes simply called Conceptualism, is art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. Many works of conceptual art, sometimes called installations, may be constructed by anyone simply by following a set of written instructions.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Whether you're a textile artist or an art enthusiast, here is a website with a wealth of information and inspiration.

Clear and well-organized, this site features interviews with top-ranking textile artists, articles on topics of interest (finding venues for your work, for example) and reviews of exhibitions and publications. 

A great find! 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Christmas postcards 2013

Every year I like to make a couple dozen special Christmas cards. Having done this for maybe ten years, it's not always easy to come up with a fresh idea.

This time around, I am doing a variation on last year's cards. I used pearlescent paint to stencil an evergreen tree onto ice-dyed cotton, outlined the tree with metallic silver thread, and added pearls or pink crystals.

These mini-quilts are backed with watercolour paper and sent through the mail bareback. I like to think they bring a special delight to those who find them in their mailbox, and perhaps to the postal workers who handle them. A couple of my friends collect or even frame them, so I know they are appreciated.

To learn more about ice-dyeing, please visit my post of September 9, 2012.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shari Blaukopf: a drawing a day

One of my daily delights is a subscription to Shari Blaukopf 's blog. I can almost always count on an inventive and well-composed sketch to surprise and inform me.

Shari promised herself two years ago to do a drawing every day, and to post it on-line. She has training in graphic design, but had allowed her drawing skills to go fallow over the years. As a result of that commitment, she became involved with the international group Urban Sketchers, and then became one of their one hundred invited correspondents. The motto of the group is, "We aim to show the world, one drawing at a time."

Shari spoke to the Hudson Artists last year. She is a member of the Lakeshore Artists, a teacher at Vanier College, and organizer of Urban Sketchers: Montreal, a group that meets monthly to sketch the urban environment. All newcomers are welcomed.

When she is pressed for time, Shari will find something in her fridge to sketch. Often she does a simple drawing, at other times a watercolour sketch and sometimes, my favourite, a pen and ink drawing with watercolour added. Occasionally she discusses her materials: paper, brushes, and pigments. If I'm really lucky I'll be able to sign up for a workshop with Shari next summer. Fingers crossed!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Periwinkle and Beyond: Wolf Kahn

The magic formula for periwinkle / lavender has revealed itself. I used 1 part Boysenberry and 3 parts Turquoise with extra-hot water to dye a range of cotton, in an attempt to match the colour of this flower.

This past week Michele and I visited the Jennifer Hornyak show at Galerie de Bellefeuille. (Please see my previous post for examples of her paintings.) We looked carefully to see how she uses periwinkle / lavender in her work, and saw many variations. We were blown away by her accomplished use of colour, the way she juxtaposes warm and cool hues, and her free, loose handling of oil on canvas.

The Sierras Seen from the Nevada Side, Wolf Kahn
While we were there, we studied a number of oils and pastels by Wolf Kahn, a noted American painter and masterful colourist. His work, like Hornyak's, is on the cusp of abstract and figurative imagery. We were especially intrigued to see how he uses the "elusive periwinkle". Often it is paired with a more saturated violet, as above.

Early Spring Tangle, Wolf Kahn
Here, in a pastel, it is paired with yellow-green.

Spring Haze, Wolf Kahn
Blue-green, whether soft and pastel or dark and vivid, often finds itself juxtaposed with periwinkle. When using a pastel palette, there is frequently a trace of pink on the canvas.

Purple Hill, Purple Pond, Wolf Kahn
The periwinkle is often used to indicate sky, or sky reflected in water. Here it is with its complement, a golden yellow.

Lengthwise, Wolf Kahn
And here it is shown with light, medium and dark yellow-green, plus golden yellow: a triad of tertiary colours.

This colour is not difficult to find in the works of Hornyak and Kahn. But though it is used freely by both, it retains its indefinable, ambiguous and ethereal quality.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Getting to Periwinkle: Jennifer Hornyak

By the end of the month, I have to come up with a small quilt that showcases the colour periwinkle. Or is it lavender? This assignment is one of the quarterly challenges of the on-line group 12 by the dozen. Every three months, one of the twelve members chooses a colour, and we all respond with a 8.5 x 11-inch art quilt. This time round, Linda Forey chose a colour from a hibiscus in her garden.

Linda Bilsborrow analyzed the photo of this flower by using some on-line software to help us understand the colour a little better. How much blue? How much violet? Warm or cool?

Because I didn't have any fabric like this on hand, I tried several different MX dyes on cotton, but nothing was quite right. I even sent the photo of the flower to PRO Chemical & Dye company, seeking their advice about which dye or combination of dyes I might use. Their suggestion was Blue-Violet, which you can see below. Others have advised, "Start with turquoise and add magenta", or "Start with boysenberry and add a dash of this and a drop of that".

Gradation dyeing: Blue-Violet

Gradation dyeing: 1 part Blue-Violet, 1 part Indigo
Gradation Dyeing: Eggplant

Gradation Dyeing: 2 parts Ultra-Violet, 1 part Indigo
The result of all this fretting is that I now have all these lovely colours to work with, but I'm still not convinced I've matched the challenge colour. And then I have to decide on the other colours for the piece. A monochromatic range of lights and darks? A buttery-yellow as a complementary?

Until November 12, there's a show at Galerie de Bellefeuille that I hope to see. Montreal artist Jennifer Hornyak is known for her sophisticated palette and her fresh and loose handling of oil paint. Maybe I can borrow some of her inspired sense of colour to help me rise to this Challenge. Have a look at some of her still lifes, below, to see what she does with periwinkle. (Or is it lavender?)

Patchwork with Orange, Jennifer Hornyak, 2013

White Cadence I, Jennifer Hornyak, 2012

Flowers with Ice Blue Stripe, Jennifer Hornyak, 2012
White Flowers with Lavender, Jennifer Hornyak, 2013

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Interviews with Fibre Artists

Congratulations to Gareth Bate and Dawne Rudman, the amazing team behind the biennial World of Threads Festival in Toronto.

Every week or two they publish an illustrated interview with an innovative fibre artist, choosing their subjects from around the world. They have now published 100 interviews, and their archive is a thoughtful overview of the variety in the contemporary fibre art scene.

To sample some of the wonderful work being produced,  in Canada and elsewhere, visit their collection of interviews. There you can subscribe to see new interviews as they are published.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gifted! show at Arbor Gallery

I'm pleased to participate in the pre-Christmas show at the Arbor Gallery, 36 Home Street, Vankleek Hill.  This event offers affordable art and fine craft for holiday giving. I will be showing six pieces from my Boathouse series.
The dates are October 31 to January 13, with a vernissage scheduled for Saturday, November 2, from 1 to 3 pm. 
Regular hours are Thursday to Sunday from noon to 4 pm. Please check their website for more information: 
It is suggested that you phone before visiting to confirm that the gallery will be open: 1-877-616-5086.

This is the same gallery that will host my solo exhibit, June 12 - August 17, 2014.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

"A Taste for Modernism", Quebec City

Thinking about a getaway as winter approaches? A wonderful show of French Impressionist and post-Impressionist work is being staged at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, October 11 - February 16.

The show has been organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and comprises 62 paintings, sculptures and graphic works from their William S. Paley collection. Artists include Cezanne, Degas, Rodin, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Derain and Picasso. The show will tour North America for almost two years, with Quebec City as its only Canadian stop.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Jardins de Lumière

When  the Women's Art Society of Montreal arranged a group visit to the Jardins de Lumière this week, Michele and I jumped at the opportunity. This event at Montreal's Botanical Gardens has been getting great reviews since it opened on September 6.

While many of our group were impressed with the figures in the Chinese garden, Michele and I felt they were "Disneyesque", to the point of being garish. Not much variety, subtlety or artistry, from our point of view.

The sculptures appear to be made from textile, stretched over an armature and lit from within.

A musical soundtrack accompanied us as we toured, and a lone musician performed a solo on a stringed instrument in a Chinese pagoda.

As we left the Chinese garden we took an unexpected turn and found ourselves in the Japanese garden.

We came upon a Japanese-styled building, and inside we discovered an exhibit about washi paper. We read about how it is made and saw lots of examples.

The best part of the evening was to come. As we left the building, we entered the Japanese garden, with its many beautifully structured trees, subtly lit from beneath. Spotlit architectural accents, like bridges and lanterns, completed the landscape, creating a panorama of stark simplicity and haunting natural forms.

Midway through the circuit, we became separated from the other members of the group. We hope that they too stumbled upon the magic of the Japanese garden, which for us was the highlight of the evening.

If you're planning a visit, be sure to see both gardens, if only to compare the two very different styles. The event continues until November 3.

For more information, and to see a 2-minute video clip of the exhibit, please visit the website.