Monday, December 27, 2010

Thoughts on An Extraordinary Year..

"North on I-29", oil on panel, 16"x16"

This past year has been ridiculously full of travel and exploration. From hiking over mossy trails on Vancouver Island, jogging along the Yukon River in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, standing in sun looking out at the splendour of Cappadocia in Turkey, peering over the shoulders of gargoyles at Notre Dame in Paris, witnessing the impossibly blue Mediterranean Sea, touching the spines of Saguaro Cacti in the south of Arizona, standing beneath the quiet hush of giant sequoias in California's Yosemite National Park, and seeing Mt. McKinley in the heart of Denali National Park in its full glory, I would not trade a moment of it for anything. 

A flicker surveys the surrounding desert landscape from atop a saguaro cactus, Arizona..

It has been a year of reference-collecting extraordinaire. But it is not distance nor quantity of places that matter. It is what you glean and distill from each day that has meaning and builds upon the fibres of your being. Whether you live in a cave (like one woman I met in Turkey) or rub shoulders with arctic tundra on daily is what we choose to store inside our minds and hearts that counts. 

The sublime drive into Delta Junction, Yukon Territory

As Francis Bacon once said: "The job of the artist is to deepen the mystery." 

This is an exciting and challenging task. I am trying my best to do this with my artwork, blogs, photos and other creative projects. Or course one has to venture inwards as much as outwards to fully express how you feel with regards to you work. I hope you have enjoyed these posts this past year, and just imagine what the future holds! 2012 sees another voyage to Alaska, a 200 km hiking adventure above the Arctic Circle in Greenland, and lots and lots of time in the studio getting back to painting the figure. I can't wait!

Cave dwellings thousands of years old in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

The year has also seen "Back To The Wild: The Photographs And Writings Of Christopher McCandless" grow and evolve. We expect to publish the DVD and book in the early part of 2011. You can read more about the project here. It has been an incredible journey helping to bring the photographs and experiences of Chris McCandless to light for the world to see.

"The Big Blue": The Mediterranean in the South Of France

While a good number of paintings have come out of the studio, even more will be produced next year as I let the experiences of 2010 ferment and turn into fuel for future works. I have painted three landscapes recently, one of which is at the top of this post. I love painting these pieces yet I yearn to re-embrace portraiture and figurative work.This is at the top of my list of goals for 2011.

"Uzes Kitchen", oil on canvas, 24"x18", 2010
Private Collection

Magnificent Mount McKinley in Alaska, the highest peak in North America

So thank-you for coming along on these journeys with me over the past year. Many of you have been following my work for years already! I appreciate your support and belief in what I do. If you are interested in the painting "North On I-29", at the top of this blog, please contact Abbozzo Gallery.

Also I have set up an online ordering system for prints of my paintings and photographs! Here is the link to purchase prints.  I will add more paintings and photographs to the list of available pieces soon. You can purchase fine art prints, photo prints, mugs, magnets and more! 

May 2012 be your best year yet!

Sincerely, Heather

"Moving Forward" by Rainer Maria Rilke

The deep parts of my life pour onward,
as if the river shores were opening out.
It seems that things are more like me now,
that I can see farther into paintings.
I feel closer to what language can't reach.
With my senses, as with birds, I climb
into the windy heaven, out of the oak, 
in the ponds broken off from the sky
my falling sinks, as if standing on fishes.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Towards Fairbanks" and "The Swan" by Mary Oliver

"Towards Fairbanks, oil on panel, 9"x12", 2010

                               The Swan      by Mary Oliver

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

This painting and two other new landscapes are available at
Abbozzo Gallery! 

Wishing you a Happy Holiday and a wonderful New Year!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cavorting in Yosemite National Park

"I am not an adventurer by choice but by fate."~Vincent Van Gogh

After our day trip to the ghost town of Bodie, California, my friend Jay and I decided to explore more of Yosemite National Park where we were camped for a week. The entire region was a sensory witness "Nature's Cathedral" so intensely was something we knew we would hold close to our hearts forever. With each glance upward cliffs of granite greeted us and we watched the light slant and change every hour. We had our adventure shoes on, and plenty of good coffee too!

We had a great system of filters and coffee to jump start our mornings at camp

On one of our last days we went to the top of Glacier Point, over 3,000 feet above the valley floor. It was amazing and vertigo-inducing to look down over the edge to Curry Village down below. People scurried about like ants and cars were the size of pebbles. 

The winding climb that took over an hour to reach the top had us giddy with the knowledge that we were in such an amazing place. It was hot...every day was...July in Yosemite challenges your body to maintain a steady temperature, yet the climate is so variable that we were quite cold when twilight dipped into camp. Being in the high Sierras forces you to be prepared for the dramatic fluctuations in temperature from mid day to the middle of the night.

Here is a view looking out from Glacier Point. Half Dome, that sheer granite cliff that has inspired artists and naturalists for ages stands resolutely off to the right hand side. Here is a closer view of Half Dome below. It is hard to believe that it towers 4,744 ft above the valley floor... 

Spending time in Yosemite National Park fostered a new appreciation for the beautiful variation of the earth. It is continually a surprise, an adventure, an invitation to reach out beyond our preconceived ideas about what the world is about. It was my first time in California and I can see why people wax romantic about that state. Granted I only saw a small pocket of it, but an important and significant place. I am pleased that Yosemite National Park is protected, and, while heavily traveled, there is a conscientious attitude there to preserve and enjoy it for future generations. John Muir set a good example and the park simply would not exist without him. 

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, 
where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."~John Muir

A view looking down Lower Yosemite Valley

On one of our last days in the Yosemite area, we ventured up to the Northeastern section of the park to Tuolumne Meadows. The drive took us on a winding road over to Olmstead point, which presented gorgeous views of the park from an entirely different angle. All told, we traveled from the top to the bottom of the park over the course of 8 days and did a great amount of hiking. From the vast expanse of the valley floor to standing in the soft shadow of giant sequoia trees, we embraced all that nature had to offer.

 Crazy-gorgeous sky and clouds, with slabs of mountains falling away
 as we drove towards Tuolumne Meadows..

At last...Tuolumne Meadows. Standing here was the highlight of my time in Yosemite..

Tuolumne Meadows literally took my breath away. We walked out on to the emerald expanse, and I could not help but spin around in circles. I felt like a child once again, and looked wide-eyed at the paradise rolling out all around us. Such large spaces of beauty seem to create a vacuum...they seem to possess their own gravity and pull you towards and into them as if with a tractor beam.

 The water was so clear I couldn't help but wade in up to my waist...fortunately I had my Vibram 5 Finger KSO's on!! These little shoes are fabulous...especially if you are a rock climber, or like to amble about or run barefoot. Check out your local hiking store to see if they carry them. Here is their site!
KSO's make you feel like a Nature ninja!

I admired the tenacity of this tree to grow through a crack in the rock. 
Proof that nothing is ever permanent..

We explored the meadow for the afternoon, walking away from the road, towards the river and passed all manner of rocks and trees, encountering almost no one once we left the road. Our entire week in the park had no rain, just hot temperatures, magnificent views and, fortunately, no cell phone reception!

Our last stop was the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias...sequoias are truly exceptional trees...they were almost driven to extinction because their wood is so valuable...I think it is over 300 times more dense than pine. The forest was quiet with a light humidity as we walked in the shade of their shadows...we followed the winding trail down through the forest, marvelling at their immensity and the majesty of these unique trees.

Jay demonstrating the scale of the giant sequoias...

Yosemite seems like a lifetime away now, but yet the memories of spending time here will never leave me. The park thankfully, is protected, and we have the freedom to explore its wilderness to our hearts' content. If you have the chance to visit Yosemite National Park, please do. It has a quiet magic that will cast a spell on you and will not lead you astray. I promise :)

"I will be the gladdest thing under the sun. 
I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one."~Edna St. Vincent Millay

Have a beautiful day, wherever you may be...

I now have prints, mugs, magnets of my paintings and photographs available!
 I will continually add new paintings and photographs for purchase. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thoughts on "127 Hours" And What We Overcome: Part 1

"Figure, Folded", oil on canvas

"The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it."~Moliere

I was on the treadmill today thinking about "127 Hours", as I have every day for the past week. Eight days ago my friend Natalie and I went to Toronto to see this film that I had heard so much about. It is the cinematic adaptation of Aaron Ralston's life threatening experience hiking near Moab, Utah in 2003. Knowing full well what was going to happen in the film, I was nervous about watching"the scene". Would I faint? Feel nauseous? Natalie thrust a colour photo from the center of Ralston's book "Between A Rock And A Hard Place" into my wide eyes, so that I could see his amputated arm, encased in rock and with splashes of crimson all around. That diminished my fear a bit, all the while piquing my curiosity about this man and what he did when there was no other option.

I had full confidence that "127 Hours" would move me. And it did. I've been watching Danny Boyle's films ever since "Shallow Grave" (1994). (Ewan McGregor laughing to himself in the restroom at a wedding, muttering "f#*king bin bag. He made that film).

As for "127 Hours" I was pulled into Aaron Ralston's world immediately. The film had a directness and did not embellish. It did not fall prey to many films that pad their premises with drama for drama's sake. I liked that. It simply took us to the heart of his ordeal yet laid it out in a thoughtful and beautiful way.

As an artist and outdoor enthusiast, I'm attracted to landscapes that take the breath away. I am bewitched by great distances between things. I MUST and WILL hike and experience that pocket of the world...ever since reading 'Desert Solitaire' two years ago, Edward Abbey's description of Arches National Monument and the surrounding landscape has haunted me. The film integrated the landscape with Ralston's enthusiasm perfectly..all the while drawing him nearer to the place that would change, and nearly take his life.

I have contemplated Ralston's act of cutting off his arm. Could I do the same thing? Would I survive it let alone have the courage to try? One can only speculate for it is only in that moment that you really discover the answer. So I started thinking...what have I overcome that has made me who I am today?

Now, keep in mind human beings compare in order to understand. We evaluate ourselves against the trials of our peers. Ralston lost an arm. That's heavy stuff. I'm not trying to compare our respective situations other than drawing even the most remote parallel.

Two experiences in my life have shaped me into who I am now. The first feeds into the second. In this blog entry I will describe the first experience. In a few days I will write about the other..

Three years ago I overcame an eating disorder that had me very VERY ill. I am 5'8" and had whittled down to 100 lbs at my lowest weight. I could not sit on a wooden chair or sleep with my knees stacked together for the pain from lack of body fat/muscle. I was in a crazy situation that had been precipitated by a depression following my mother suffering a massive stroke. I sought control in a situation that had swung madly off the charts of my understanding.

I obsessed about what I ate and overexercised. It became a game. A deadly game. My brain and body chemistry had altered so much that I felt like a husk of a human being. I felt like and looked like a wraith drifting between the world of the living and the dead. It was only when I was told I had osteoporosis at the age of 32 that I snapped out of it. Then and there in the doctor's office. That diagnosis changed me. I was not ready to perish. I was not ready to let go. I walked out of that office, ate whatever I wanted that day and never looked back. Now, four years later I have almost entirely reversed my bone loss (bone is the slowest growing tissue in the human body), am healthy and hike all over the world. With a combination of tenacity and determination, there truly is no limit to what you can do.

"Self-Portrait, Between", oil on canvas

Keep in mind I had to paint and earn a living through the eating disorder. The fire had left my eyes but there was always a spark deep inside. I knew this situation could not continue. It was like living two lives: the one I was trapped in and the one I knew was the correct one. I needed to paint myself in these places of unhappiness. As Picasso once said "painting is just another way of keeping a diary."Thus I have a record of what I went through with some of my self-portraits. Even the other work I did has echoes of that sadness in them. Here are some examples:

"Self-Portrait, Bedhead" This one won a prize :)
"Double Portrait", oil on canvas, 48"x36"

 "The Spare Room", oil on canvas, 30"x60"

I think that this period of my life produced some of the most emotional work I have done. Yet I was not healthy. I painted as though through a gauze, in the shadows, indirectly. Now I am back on track and painting with a vibrant palette and carving out experiences wherever the wind blows me. It is all a part of our own unique history. We all have a way of tallying our lives, of realizing them with permanence. Mine is through paint and words.

Thus back to Aaron Ralston

"Art begins with resistance-at the point where resistance is overcome. 
No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor."~Andre Gidé