Lisa C.

Mining Content

What really spoke to me this week when I read the Week 7 Notes was the concept of the Heart Chakra.  I think it should be the images and experiences that appeal to your heart that drives your art.   This course has made me finally write down my ideas for series that have been floating around in my head for years.  But like Cheryl C. (her comments really resonated with me – thanks for articulating this, Cheryl!), I recognize that I must focus my attention and energy deliberately.

I have always had an interest in gardening.  I obtained my Master Gardening certification when I retired (one of my bucket list items) and loved every minute of it.  When my husband joined me in retirement, we moved to a small town in southwestern Ontario, Canada.  One of the reasons we bought our historic property is the very large yard with its amazing mature trees.  Just outside my studio window, there is a larch tree that is at least 100 feet tall.   I watch its bare form in the winter dotted with small cones on the branches, the bright green needles that emerge in the spring, followed by the yellow needles that fall off the branches in autumn.   And there are many others – a redbud with its branching network enveloped in a cloud of pink blooms, a dark red Japanese maple with fluttering leaves, a huge white spruce whose skeleton can be viewed standing beneath its canopy, a blooming chestnut tree with bees swarming around it.  These trees just capture my heart.   

Then my “aha” moment occurred.   The piece I critiqued last week is the first in a series.  It includes a vignette is of a maple tree that I can view from my studio in winter.  I have four additional tops pieced that have been pinned on my studio walls for the past two years while I await for the inspiration to complete them (Photos 7-1 to 7-4 ).  This train of thought made me think I should continue developing this series with a portrait of each of my favorite trees that reside in my yard.  I can already visualize the larch tree portrait – its distinctive winter form defined in thread and French knots representing the cones, and maybe some bright green hand-stitched needles.  Not sure yet what additional surface techniques I will use but I finally have some focus with distinction!

But it is more than just the trees.  I discovered that I have a little ecosystem just outside my door, and my interactions with it capture my heart.  Last summer, I brought a clump of Italian parsley that I plunked into a jar of water on the kitchen counter and forgot about.  After a few days, I noticed some bare stalks on my parsley, and on closer inspection, I discovered a caterpillar feasting on my parsley.  Thought it was a Monarch but after a quick internet search discovered it was a Swallowtail caterpillar.  I named her “Gwen”.  I watched Gwen turn into a cocoon and emerge as a beautiful butterfly a few weeks later.   What a magical experience to witness firsthand!  I didn’t know this at the time, but the wing patterns are different for male and female swallowtail butterflies.  It turns out that Gwen was a Glen! Not sure it will become a series, but I am thinking about doing at least a “before and after” of Gwen.

Just last week, there was a young crow perched on one of the planters on my patio.  Tried to shoo him away but he didn’t budge and looked so frightened.  Upon closer inspection, I discovered that he had injured his wing and might not be able to fly (Photo 7-3). I didn’t have the heart to see him suffer, so I called the local vet who put me in touch with a gentleman in town who would capture the bird and put him out of his misery.  He came to the house and captured the crow in his net.  Taking a closer look, it appears his wing was not broken but the tip of his wing was damaged.  He figured it was a baby crow that might have fallen out of the nest as there is a large spruce tree adjacent to the patio.   He let him loose on the lawn and told me to call him back if he was worse for wear the next day.  Did a little search that evening and could find no sign of him on the lawn.  After several days, we discovered “Calvin” (yes, I named him) sitting on one of the lower branches of the large spruce tree where I suspect his nest resides.  I am a little cautious of doing a series on crows (since many more talented artists have explored this idea), but a portrait of Calvin might be in order!

Calvin

Calvin

One of the things I love about living in this small town is that you can drive less than five minutes in any direction and be in the middle of SW Ontario farmland.  I am so intrigued by farm architecture that I drive past - their shapes and lines and texture have a lot of appeal to me.  This one will have to brew for a while – need to take photos and do some research before I am ready to pull the trigger on this series!