My new basement studio has seen a lot of use over the past couple of days. I’ve been working on layering and pouring skills, and I’m still enchanted by the absorbing mindfulness of the chemist component.
This, my friends, is one expensive hobby. I thought the cash drain had come to an end when I set up the studio with everything I could possibly need, but not so. I’ve already had to restock a few canvases and some often-used paint colours. I am counting on the fact that it will become less expensive as I waste less. I scraped several canvases and started over yesterday while learning some new techniques.
Sheila Wright, our Acrylic Pour guru, has mastered the Dutch Pour after several weeks of dedicated effort. This technique produces an abstract blossom a la Georgia O’Keefe and is surrounded by negative space. Not only is a rare breed of blow dryer required, boasting both the proper nozzle and a setting for high air flow with no heat, but Sheila found that she had to upgrade from dollar store paints to get the results she was seeking. A butane torch has been used to bring out the bubbles.
She has also created her largest ocean pour to date on a 16x20 canvas which is “still wet” days after the pour. Check out the gorgeous jewellery she’s made from the paint "skins" left on the tray after the work is done.
Artistic talent is not one of the assets in my arsenal. I had a flirtation with macramé in my hippie days, was seriously devoted to photography for many years and passionate about refinishing furniture, but drawing and painting? Nope. In my book, those skills are right up there with sewing and any other craft requiring long hours of patient sitting and dexterity.
I wasn’t expecting anything life-changing to occur when I joined the Forte Acrylic Pouring workshop with Sheila Wright last month. It was fun, and a great time was had by all, but I didn’t picture myself heading off to the dollar store afterwards to pick up a few bottles of paint and a couple of canvases. Just for fun, you know. Pouring medium and silicone, the expensive components, were also required.
I loved my first home pour. The second had some issues. Four canvases later and armed with a rudimentary understanding of all the things I did wrong, I headed back for more supplies. I bought a greater supply of everything the second time with two visions in mind. There was a large wall in my bathroom that could really use an update. Six or eight small paintings would do it, crafted in the purples, blues and greens of the room’s existing art pieces.
We have a cherished collection of black and white paintings, prints and photographs displayed on both sides of our hall walls. One side needed reconfiguration to accommodate a wonderful caricature by New York artist Eric Jones, recently gifted to guests by the SOS Lounge at their second anniversary celebration. Two small black and white canvases on either side would be perfect. Ten canvases were purchased, along with the paint for two dedicated colour schemes.
Sheila taught us the flip cup, the simplest technique, at the workshop. It calls for layering multiple colours of paint into a cup, upending it and tilting the canvas to manipulate the flow of paint. Messy, but rather a sensual joy as the colours and patterns swirl out. She also taught us the swipe, which is a little more difficult. A layer of paint is pulled over a constructed pattern of paints, which then emerge through the surface in a spectacular reveal.
Creating a successful black and white for the hall was unexpectedly challenging, since the three colours I had chosen (black, white and metallic silver) pretty much blended together to create a sparkly gray with little contrast. Sort of nice, but bland. I started experimenting with direct pouring and with turning a vertical swipe to horizontal to create an entirely new pattern. At this point, I was beginning to see possibilities for greater control of the outcome, and I found myself getting seriously motivated and trying new ideas every day.
I was delighted with some of the pieces I made, but I also experienced countless disasters. Some canvases were scraped and remade, only to be rejected a second time. Back to the stores for another round, and then another. By this time, other walls in my home had come to my attention as potential recipients for new art. My bedroom could use a couple of additions, and the vibrant colour scheme in our basement rooms beckoned with creative appeal.
And so it began. I took to reading up and watching countless technique videos. The artists make all techniques look like a simple process that produces an astounding piece of art. It’s not always like that for a beginner. According to my stack of receipts, I have now made seven trips to the stores, spending increasingly higher amounts of cash each time. Winning entries started to accumulate and be hung temporarily on walls, while the pile of someday-I’ll-sand-and-gesso-those-canvases-to-reuse grew.
I was painting every day, making three or four at a time. Acrylic pouring makes one heck of a mess, so it only makes sense to maximize efficiencies and reuse dirty cups while the paint in them is still good. Sheila invited me for a painting session at her studio and I was wildly inspired, not only by some of her work but by her organized and waste-reducing methods.
The time had come. I had been playing Picasso in my kitchen, early in the morning. We have a long, extra-wide counter and I was able to use the non-kitchen side for two paintings and accommodate a third at the far end. My eating space at the table was claimed. There were paint-spattered gloves, rags and supplies on every other available flat surface. Paintings were drying on trays in out-of-the-way spots on the floor. The mess and clutter were horrendous.
My project for this past weekend was to set up a studio in my basement, which is also home to my workout studio, laundry room and guest room. Fortuitously, we added kitchen cabinetry and a counter to the area opposite our laundry facilities last year, so the space is perfect and has a sink. I made my first painting there on Friday night.
The current plan calls for one more 10x10 for the bathroom wall, two large paintings for over the bed in the guest room and a couple of challenging visions in the riotous colours of the existing art in my fitness studio. After that, who knows?
Creating art, whether good or bad, is a beautiful thing that stirs the soul. Acrylic pouring has an absorbing in-the-zone chemist aspect to it as paint colours are selected and mixed in tiny little cups. I have been loving it. And, at the risk of sounding pseudo profound, the flowing abstraction of this art form in its completed state often brings order to chaos as the mind processes analogies to what the eye sees. I've seen storms, battles, attacking armies, undersea tranquility, flowing water, trees, flowers, creatures and animals in these paintings. Really. Animals.
The Warkworth Lilac Festival was little more than a vision when Janice Allen became Honourary Chair of the Festival Committee in 2009. The Committee's vision has bloomed into one of Trent Hills' most beloved events, and the Village of Warkworth is gearing up for the opening weekend of the ninth annual celebration of all things lilac on May 25 and 26.
The Millennium Lilac Trail, the original Festival site, now boasts over 300 plantings of 83 varieties of the fragrant spring bloom including many rare varieties. Thanks to a blend of early, mid and late-blooming species, the Trail provides an ever-changing tapestry of colour for 30 to 40 days. It’s not just about the flowers, however. It takes a village, they say, and the Village of Warkworth comes together every year to roll out an activity-packed opening weekend that celebrates music, art, dance, food, fun and local business.
“It was good for the businesses, bringing the festival to Main Street,” Janice says. “The challenge was to balance the happenings in town with activities along the Millennium Trail to make sure that visitors enjoyed the full experience.” The Festival is a major tourist draw, bringing countless guests to Trent Hills and offering a favourite destination for bus tour groups from throughout the province.
A new section of trail opened this year, extending the scenic, scented route to just under 3 km. As well as the immersive splendour of the lilacs themselves, the journey on Festival weekend offers plenty of discovery with live music, dancers and a Crafters' Market of artisan vendors situated along the path. The trail is easily navigable for those with physical challenges and guided tours are available by appointment.
One of the Festival’s most popular highlights, the Victorian Tea, takes place in the gazebo on the trail. “I met a lady on Main Street last year,” Janice remembers. “She was beautifully dressed and had a gorgeous purple hat. She told me she came all the way from Ottawa to attend our tea!” This year’s theme is the Roaring Twenties. Coordinated by Ellie Tweedie, elegant sandwiches and treats are served with tea or punch in bone china teacups by Warkworth Guiding. Guests are encouraged to dress for the occasion in vintage hats, gloves, pearls and boas. Some hats and gloves will be available for loan at the Tea party should anyone be caught unprepared.
Warkworth’s Main Street is a veritable hub with activities planned non-stop from opening to closing daily. As well as live music at The Mews, the thoroughfare showcases local crafters, artisans and horticultural vendors along with live demonstrations from rug hooking to bellydancing. The festivities include an annual photography show with entries competing for prizes sponsored by local businesses and organizations. This year’s photo gallery will be hosted by Centre & Main Chocolate, which will once again be offering a celebratory spring lilac chocolate bar to mark the occasion. The pretty delectable was a hit with Festival guests last year.
Art Around Ah! at the Arts and Heritage Centre is also a major draw, featuring the work of local artists in various mediums. Children’s activities include crafts, cupcake decorating and facepainting. The Blades of Glory medieval entertainment/education company from The Realm in Hastings will be appearing at the Festival for the first time this year with a live reenactment of the tale of King Arthur and the Sword In The Stone. Kids will have an opportunity to vie for the crown and do their best to free the sword.
The Touch of Lilac floral design competition is always a winner, Janice says, both for the participants who create the flower arrangements and for the observers who have a chance to enjoy them on the porch of the Cheeky Bee Candle Company storefront.
The first day’s celebrations come to an end with the signature Jazz in the Lilac Room performance at the Warkworth Town Hall Centre for the Arts on Saturday night. “The room always looks just beautiful,” Janice says. “It’s all decorated and they set it up to look like a French nightclub”. This year’s performance is another first, the premiere outing for the Moonglow Jazz Strings quartet and the “coming together of a dream” for founder Howard Baer. During his 38-year musical career, one of Howard’s “greatest musical pleasures” was to write and conduct full orchestra scores which he “put on hold” in 2010 when he turned to playing upright bass. The Warkworth resident has scored and produced the sold-out performance, featuring Karen Oxorn as vocalist, Allanna Ellison on harp, Michael Monis on guitar and Howard on bass, presenting beloved jazz standards by the likes of Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Cole Porter.
Janice is excited at the headliner for this year’s fundraising luncheon as well. We’ve held the luncheon in a tent, and in a garden,” she laughs. “Every year we held it outdoors, we had problems with rain and wind.” Marking its third year at Villa Conti Oak Heights Estate Winery, the venue is now “nice and cosy”, she says. The Mane Event, A Hair Raising Luncheon, features Canadian celebrity and award-winning hair style artist Darek Wierzbicki. The Villa will offer Italian cuisine and wines while Darek shares information on new hair styling techniques and demonstrates a live hair and cosmetic makeover. All proceeds from the luncheon go towards the Lilac Festival and the Millennium Lilac Trail.
The Warkworth Lilac Festival was recognized with the Canada 150 Garden Experience Award in 2017. “We are very proud of that,” Janice says. Commending the “wonderful committee” behind the Festival, she also salutes the “tireless efforts of volunteers, organizations and businesses that contribute their time and support to the success of the Warkworth Lilac Festival and the development and maintenance of the Millennium Lilac Trail.”
Warkworth Lilac Festival on facebook
Warkworth Lilac Festival Victorian Tea on facebook
Guided tours of the Millennium Lilac Trail, email WLFTours@gmail.com