School Painting Workshop in St. John’s

Leslie Quennehen_Grands Vents_Saint Jean_DLH_0106In the next few days, I’ll be writing a bilingual post that summarizes my workshop teaching process for those interested in trying it out for themselves or with their classes/groups. Get your paints ready – it doesn’t have to be a high energy performance like I do it!  If very well organized and each step is timed almost to the minute, it can be done with a group in 3 hours (after the room is set up). I also did it with a very small group in 2 hours, but there was no waiting time for the dryers or sinks. Having said that, I’ve done it for a full weekend too.  In that case, students got a lot more of the important free time to repeat any of the steps they felt moved to once the basic 4 steps are completed and worked on several canvases at a time. The possibilities – and layers – are endless!

Last School – St. John’s :

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Leslie Quennehen_Grands Vents_Saint Jean_DLH_0068I was at l’École des Grands-Vents at 7:30am this morning to set up for my last school workshop of the “Les Mains dans l’art” program.  On my own, it takes about an hour to get the room and all the supplies ready.  It really helps set the mood, and it’s a lot more effective if we can get rolling right away when they arrive. It’s high energy from the get-go, and I’m lucky if I get a washroom break in the following 3 hours, even if the children get a recess.

We had a big group today – 12 grade 6 students and their substitute teacher, M. Gilles.  There was a lot of energy, but also a lot of cooperation.  Alas, the bathrooms were a mess by the end, but the school custodian wasn’t phased. He simply repeated “It’s my job” every time I apologized. I had another helper too today. Leslie, who was also a part of the west coast leg of this workshop tour, joined us for the morning to take pictures, so that was great.

It’s always gratifying after the the first little while when students stop asking “Is it OK to …”.  By the end, I could tell that they all understood that there are no mistakes, and that if they keep focusing on what they like or enjoy, they’ll create a piece they’re happy with – one that is uniquely their own – even if it takes more than the 5 layers we had time to complete in class. It may have taken more time for some than others to let loose and let go, but again, by the end, everyone was taking creative risks, exploring, having fun, letting go of expectations, etc.  Great job! I’m so proud of all of the leaps of faith I witnessed today.

If you could see their faces (which I don’t show in school photos on the Internet), you’d see that they were a happy and energetic bunch! For Step 2, with cool colours, they only had 10 seconds with each toy/tool before passing it to the right. They had so many to play with, I didn’t want them to obliterate their warm colours. I’m sure all that fun energy comes across in both their paintings and these photos – I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story (a couple of the spooky Hallowe’en type).

Note: There is one more free French community workshop left here in St. John’s on November 22nd as part of the Festival des Vents. Stay tuned for details. Registration will be limited to 15.  No experience required – Truly! –  just an open mind and a heart open to play.

Moody Newfoundland

DLH_9998I’m not sure if my mood is reflecting the weather or the weather my mood today. Just minutes ago, at 10:30 in the morning, the sky turned nearly completely black and then dumped a whole lot of water on us. After less than 5 minutes, it was over.  Impressive. I’m glad it’s another home day of painting and writing for me here in this dry and wonderful house that doesn’t sway in high winds like the 200-year old complex I lived in before (although water swishing in the toilet on its own made for a great blog post at the time).

DLH_0026I wonder if this is still the leftovers of hurricane Gonzalo or simply normal Newfoundland weather.  Yesterday, after a night of high winds and rain, the sun came out and it felt like summer, so Eva, Orinda, and I headed to Beachy Cove.  I was due for a break from painting and sun was calling. Eva, an avid swimmer, wanted to get into the ocean one last time before winter.  By the time we got there, the sun had disappeared and so had Bell Island across from Beachy Cove.  The ocean was quite dramatic too, but Eva felt it was safe in this protected cove. At one point, the drizzle was blowing sideways and we got quite chilly standing on the shore. That didn’t stop Eva, however.  She felt invigorated by her short swim.  As she said, the air is really warm once you get out of the cold Atlantic ocean. We made our way back up to the car while she enjoyed her cup of hot water.  That’s when the sun came back with full force and so did Bell Island.

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We then drove a bit further to see Saint-Phillips- Portugal Cove, where Orinda grew up before returning home.

I love this island, with all its moods.  This morning, while putting the finishing touches on a painting,  I’m watching a 3-part mini series on Newfoundland called “Vanished in the Mist” that I borrowed from the library. It’s really well done if you’re interested in the rich and rocky history of this island. It’s reminding me of the 53 historical novels I read in 2011-12 that helped me bond with and understand this land and its people in a very deep and special way.

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As for my moodiness, don’t you worry.  I’m very aware that I am the sky and my moods are simply like dark clouds moving through.  They’re already on their way out.

3 New Paintings for AANL Exhibition & Sale (Oct. 24-26)

IMG_8530I got back from my cross-province workshop tour on Friday.  I have 2 “Les Mains dans l’art” workshops left here in St. John’s, one on Wednesday morning at l’École des Grands-Vents and the other, open to the public for free, in late November during the Festival des vents.  If you’re familiar with French, you’ll notice that both these names includes a reference to Newfoundland’s winds.  Well, I’m glad to report that Hurricane Gonzalo didn’t hit us hard, at least not where I live.  During the heavy rains and wind of the last 2 days, I was in my beloved studio painting in preparation for some upcoming group exhibitions.  The river in the backyard was half way up the hill when I woke up this morning, but it’s on its way back down again, and we’ve since had sunshine and unseasonal warm weather.

FALLAANL2014The 3 paintings for next weekend’s Art Association of Newfoundland & Labrador Fall Exhibit and Sale were finished before I left for my workshop tour.  I just hadn’t photographed them yet.  If you’re in St. John’s, I hope you’ll join me and the many other artists displaying at the Arts & Culture Centre October 24 (6-9pm reception), 25 and 26.  Free admission.  I’ll definitely be there on Friday evening.  Please share this information. Thanks.

Here are the 3 new paintings I’ll have on display/ for sale during that exhibition (or before if you can’t wait).

1.  “Seabird” – 12″ x 12″ – $250 +hst, acrylics on gallery-wrapped canvas (no framing required).
This beauty’s hair is flying in the NL winds, lifting her into a state of freedom and elation as she turns her eyes upwards to the skies, one with all that is.

2. “Mirage” – 24″ x 36″ – $1,350 +hst, acrylics on gallery-wrapped canvas (no framing required).
The subtle energies emerging from the background simply asked for me to bring this tree to life.  This is quite a new look for my work, even if it’s easy to recognize it’s mine.  I can see the influence of my time studying in Vienna with this one.

3“I AM” – 24″ x 36″ – $1,350 + hst, acrylics & tar gel on gallery-wrapped canvas (no framing required).
You might recognize this imagery from 2 other pieces I’ve worked on this season: “Exaltation” and “The Astral Drum“.  I felt called to explore the theme and imagery even further as it continues to emanate from my soul, but this time in 3-D, using clear tar gel for texture, leaving the background layers visible while the Universe keeps evolving.

These are available immediately if you’re interested, or come visit them at the AANL Fall Exhibit & Sale October 24-26.  To see all my available work, click here (click on a photo to see prices and dimensions below).  To purchase a piece, please contact me.

Workshop Tour Day 9: Colourful Happy Valley

Dominique Hurley_Labrador_HVGB Churchill River_DLH_9933I woke up at 3am with a bright computer screen inches from my face on the bedside table at my hotel in Goose Bay.  Last I remember, there were only 5 or so photos left to upload to this blog – less than 2 minutes of waiting time – but I guess my body simply decided it was time to sleep after such a colourful day.

Les Mains dans l’art:  L’École Boréale  – Happy Valley, Labrador

Dominique Hurley_Labrador_École Boréale_DLH_9727I left my hotel at 6am in case the road crews had already started work on the stretch of road between Goose Bay and Happy-Valley.  That, and I needed to hunt for breakfast as it’s not served in my hotel. Luckily, I found a Tim Horton’s on the way. Of course I had to Dominique Hurley_Labrador_École Boréale_DLH_9588test whether sugar on an empty stomach still gave me an immediate headache, something I tend to forget.  What can I say? I associate Tim Horton’s with Boston Cream Doughnuts…  I was OK after I followed that up with some healthier choices.  I was at the school a little before 7am, when Jean-Pierre, the director opened up. It takes me about an hour to set up the room, and I like to have it all done by the time the participants arrive.

We had a great morning – 3 hours here with 8 participants, including Mme Nancy, the teacher, and Dominic, one of the parents.  We also had a ninth, Mme Joanna, who assisted one of the children and a few others who dropped in to witness the fun.  You’ll see a couple of faces in this gallery, as the parents were there to give me permission.  That third hour is great as it gives the students time to go through the warm, cool, glaze, and contrast layers before spending time listening to their hearts and their artwork to repeat any of the steps with any of the tools.  Once again, we were all thrilled with the results, and Mme Nancy intends to repeat the process with future classes.  Wonderful!  I’m also happy to report that Oscar, the cutest bunny ever, is still very much white after our very messy morning in his proximity.  Thanks to all for yet another memorable experience!

Dome Mountain:

Dominique Hurley_Labrador_HVGB Churchill River_DLH_9684After returning to my hotel for lunch and to spread out my brushes to dry, I met Marie-Ève, the school secretary and pre-school teacher, and we drove our separate cars up to Dome Mountain.  I could see why she opted for that instead of trying to draw me a map.  What an adventure of twists and turns through the military base (major flashbacks from my childhood on Canadian bases in Germany) and up dirt roads up the mountain.  I’m glad to report I didn’t leave the floor of my snazzy little red Cube anywhere and that my tires survived the million potholes. I can see why this is a popular playground for all terrain vehicles in the summer and ski-doos in the winter.  Once at the top, you get a great panoramic view of the whole region (although the thick haze didn’t make for great photography).Still, it was a thrill being up there and the adventure ride had me grinning yet again.

I didn’t read about this look-out on any tourist site – I felt very lucky.  I didn’t stay long after my guide left for her appointment, but took a long time getting back down – avoiding potholes, taking pictures, and playing the “find your way back” game.

I was meeting Isabelle at the school at 3pm – she works for the French school board in St. John’s, and we’ve been following each other since Port-au-Port. We headed nearby to where the director had explained was the only access to Churchill River in town.  Yay! I was going to get my sunset over water.  I knew there had to be water nearby. He explained that access to it in town was restricted for strategic military reasons when the base was built here in the valley.  I had read about this trail that passes behind Warr’s Pharmacy.  That’s where we parked, and Isabelle went for a jog along the path that passed behind houses along the shore for a few kilometers while I took pictures.

We then drove to a nearby boat launch before she went back to her hotel to work, and I kept scouting for spots to set up for sunset.

I’m just amazed at all the sand here after the pebble and stone beaches of Newofundland.  At one point, I drove down a long sandy road and onto a huge beach where all-terrain vehicles obviously have their fun.  It was magic hour for the light. Heaven!

I left before sunset though because I didn’t want to have to drive out of there in the dark.  Instead, I went back to the beach at the end of the walking trail and enjoyed the show. Now it’s your turn.

I head home to St. John’s in a couple of hours. Today, Day 10, marks the end of my travels. I loved being on the road, and I’m ready to go home.  The program isn’t finished though.  I teach in the school in St. John’s next Wednesday morning.  After that, there will be a community workshop open to the public during the Festival du Vent, on Saturday, November 22nd.  I’ll give you more details about registration as soon as I get them.  Thanks for traveling and playing with me everyone!

Workshop Tour Day 8: Across the Big Land

Labrador City – Crystal Falls:

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Ok. I’ll admit (again, I’m sure).  I’m a chicken.  You wouldn’t know it from looking at my life, but I can be quite the scaredy cat (to use a more seasonal analogy).  I’m also a firm believer in “feel the fear and do it anyway” – as long as I tune in to check whether the fear is an intuitive warning or simply psychological baggage standing in my way. All that to say that I’m sooooo happy I headed out this morning before my flight to hike the Crystal Falls trail.  I had heard it was a half hour to the Falls. I wasn’t sure if that was 30 minutes one way or two, but I gave myself a good 1.5 hours before I needed to head to the airport and raced the trail, which is about 10 minutes out of town. I really didn’t want to miss my plane or meet a bear, moose, or some ill-intentioned human out there, but I told the hotel clerk where I was heading and faced my fear in order to embrace something much more rewarding: time in nature, exercise, an opportunity to experience more of the Labrador City region, some happy snap-shooting (quickly and without my tripod, but that’s OK), and self-satisfaction at having done something that scared me. Yay!  I’m so proud! By the way, the trail is a half hour loop around the falls and back to the little sign along the highway where I had parked my car.  Had I more time, I would have looked for better vantage points of the falls themselves, but I have no regrets, and that’s the best way to live.

Of course, I was at the airport in plenty of time and enjoyed writing this in the midst of boisterous English, French, and Innu conversations (99% men working the mines or other such things). Lively!

Happy-Valley-Goose-Bay:

nf-LabradorOnce in the air, the plane ride only took 50 minutes to cross The Big Land, as Labrador is called (not bad for iPhone photos, eh?). I thought I went from the border of Québec to the ocean, but in finding you this map, I was reminded that I’m not quite on the coast here.

I landed at 1pm, got my snazzy red Nissan Cube from the rental agency, drove to the school to introduce myself and confirm logistics for tomorrow, and checked into my hotel.  By this time, it was only 2:30pm and although the skies were dramatic at times, it was absolutely gorgeous out. Perfect!  I was definitely in the mood for a photo road trip and I had read about Sunday Hill Lookout in a neighbouring town, so off I went.

I feel like my heart has twice as much space in it after that ride.  I drove 30km through moose country to North West River with either a big grin on my face, thanking God for the beauty around me, or singing at full lung power.  How appropriate that the first song when I turned on the radio was “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf. Coincidence? I don’t believe in those.

Dominique Hurley_Labrador_North West River_DLH_9533Get your motor runnin’
Head out on the highway
Lookin’ for adventure
And whatever comes our way
Yeah Darlin’ go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space

Like a true nature’s child
We were born, born to be wild
We can climb so high
I never wanna die
Born to be wild
Born to be wild

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Every time I spotted water, my heart expanded even more.  Labrador City had some nice spots, but on an energy level, this place simply resonates more with mine so far. I could feel my energy rising.  I don’t know much about the place – it’s a feeling, a vibe.  As I drove past a few small white tents nearly hidden in the woods, but with their chimney pipes smoking, I thought about a few folks I know who might like that kind of lifestyle.  I’m not sure if these were workers or local Innu, but I knew I wasn’t anywhere I’d been before.

When I got close to North West River, I stopped at the RCMP office since the tourist information office was closed for the season. The police officer was very friendly and when he heard I wanted tourist information, he got out from behind the glass window and came through to the lobby to help instead. He drew me a map of how to find Sunday Hill Lookout (thank goodness as I wouldn’t have found it).  When I asked if it was safe to walk around, he mentioned that there was a bear report the night before, but that humans shouldn’t be an issue.  Even though I reported being a fraidy pants earlier in this post, I was surprisingly calm and even amused when I was slowly driving up the rutty dirt road and saw 2 big muscular dogs jaunting along the side of the road towards me (could have been boxer pit bull mixes).  A pickup truck soon came into view coming up the other side of the hill – ah, taking the dogs for a walk in the woods.  Just as I was nearing, the Innu man stepped out of the vehicle and grabbed a chain saw from the back of the pickup and crossed in front of me.  No worries – it all seemed so natural.  When I got to one of the lookouts, another Innu man was sitting in his car smoking and looking out at the view.  We chatted a couple of minutes (mostly about my snazzy red Cube and the gorgeous country he lives in) and then I continued on my way. I saw 3 rainbows today!

Once back down more rutty dirt roads, I drove through the streets of town to look for other vantage spots and then decided to head back to Goose Bay before it started getting dark – I wanted to be back before moose hour.  Once back in town, I tried finding a good place to photograph the sunset, but I didn’t and instead drove around some more while admiring the sky.  It’s most colourful moment was probably as I made my way into the Jungle Jim’s restaurant in my hotel. Oh well…  once again, no regrets.  I feel absolutely awesome and now very full too!

Now time for bed as I need to be at the school at 7am and it’s in Happy Valley, a few minutes away.  Goodnight from one happy road-tripper!

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Workshop Tour Day 7: Hike, Drive, Teach & Sleep

I took a lot less photos today, so I won’t be going to bed at midnight again. Yay! Today, I left the camera in the car and went for a 25-minute power walk around Tanya Lake (vs. yesterday’s 2.5-hour photo walk around it).  It’s amazing how familiar the trail was – I even recognized specific blades of grass, etc. from my intense focus the day before.  Then, I hopped in the car and drove to Wabush (the adjoining town 10 minutes away) and went to take a look at Jean Lake. I was greeted at the gate by a spruce grouse right next to the road… but the camera was in the trunk….  There’s a 5km hiking trail around the lake, but I didn’t want to risk being late for school (a good habit I’ve kept from childhood :-)  ) and was chicken about doing it alone (there are bears in Labrador you know!), so I took a few pictures and headed back to Labrador City past some great Hallowe’en displays.

Les Mains dans l’art: 

Dominique Hurley_Labrador City_l'Envol_DLH_9381Le Centre éducative L’ENVOL is quite a big school.  If I remember what the director told me, most of their students are in grades 4 and below. Today, I taught three grade 7-8 students. Although some from that class were absent, we made as big and fun a mess as any other workshop group. On top of that, the results, as you’ll see, were just as unique and creative.  We also only had 2 hours here instead of 3, but less line-ups at the sink and hairdryer station sped things up a bit.

Dominique Hurley_Labrador City_l'Envol_DLH_9392I’m thrilled that the visual arts teacher also participated today. With all the leftover supplies, he plans to pass along this new style of painting to the younger students. In fact, that’s what’s great about the layering process I’ve been teaching on this trip.  You can keep on building on top of it and in the end, simplify the concept so that the multiple layers of colour and texture become a fascinatingly deep backdrop to whatever world you decide to create on top – be it abstract, landscape, portraiture, collage, or other genres. In fact, you can take this initial intuitive process and integrate it to what you already know and love in order to make it your own.  Jason seemed to find the experience fulfilling, especially because it was such a different approach than his own. This school is very lucky. Jason’s education is in the arts, his work is stunning, and they have a fully equipped visual arts room. I was like a kid in a candy shop looking around while waiting for my little crew to arrive!  So much inspiration and lots of fun projects. Bravo!

Well, it’s 5pm, I’ve had my dinner. and would almost say I’m ready for bed… I think it’s a TV night.  I’m not inspired to go back out in this pouring rain and am quite tired today.  I fly out tomorrow at 11:45 am, so if the weather is good, I may hike up to Crystal Falls in the morning. We’ll see.

Workshop Tour Day 6: Marvellous Monday!

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I knew that I was probably going to skip lunch, so I had a huge breakfast in the hotel restaurant this morning, including toutons, a NL specialty of pan fried dough smothered in molasses (I had a choice of having them deep fried, but opted for the healthier choice :-)  – a far cry from my usual Vega smoothie).  I then headed out in the drizzle for a 2.5-hour walk around Tanya Lake at the edge of town.  Folks say it takes 30 minutes to walk the trail around it, but they obviously aren’t lugging a camera and tripod.  Here’s why it took so long for me.

Association francophone du Labrador:

1522074_1512135659031968_8194920878061840375_nAt the end of the trail, I was rushing to get back to the car, so that I could get to the Association francophone du Labrador by 11:30am.  I had arranged to be there early to set up before the 9 participants arrived.  As expected and hoped for, we had a lot of fun and the results were amazing, yet again.  I am thoroughly impressed with the creative process I witnessed here.  I witnessed courage, risk-taking, letting go, relaxing, confidence building, and a whole lot of colour. I even got a few ideas!  I tell you, teachers learn as much from their students as students learn from teachers! I’m so glad I remembered to take pictures, as I no longer have Leslie with me.  Enjoy!

The sun was bright at 4:30pm after class, so I drove above Labrador City for a while to get a better feel for the place.  There are truly lakes all around! I thought about going hiking, but I was too tired and hungry and my sponge brushes were calling to be laid out to dry before tomorrow’s class.  It was a nice drive and the light was gorgeous.  What a marvelous Monday!

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