“Sarments de Vie” (Vines of Life)

Sarments de Vignes - vine prunings

Sarments de Vignes – vine prunings

Since immersing myself in the Languedoc region of France in 2013, I have experienced the seasonal rhythm of the wine making process. The transformation of the vines in this landscape, from winter gaunt to summer exuberance, is as dramatic as the magical process of  turning grapes into wine.

After helping with the harvest in autumn, the pruning process in the new year, and the recent bottling of the 2015 vintage,  I have come to know the humble ‘sarments de vigne‘. This is a new  art material for me – akin to a series of pencil strokes. I am exploring ways to join and manipulate them into sculptural forms.

Gathering sarments is the first step

Gathering sarments is the first step

These slender branches are dedicated ‘soldiers’ defending this empire of wine. Traditionally discarded after their service, my work will elevate them beyond the reach of the bonfire or the mulching machine.

Each variety of vine has its own distinct character and structural properties. Carignan is generally cooperative, Grenache intransigent, while Syrah is naturally sinuous, and seems to be most compliant under the artist’s grip.

I started my artist’s residency on April 20th at La Grange de Bouys, Roujan. My hosts, and vignerons,  Florence and Stéphane Monmousseau, have given me free reign to explore their grenier, machine sheds, vineyards, and beautiful stone mazet, all located on their bio-dynamic wine estate near Roujan, Herault.  I am using the materials and tools of the vineyard to create a number of site-specific sculpture installations. 

For the moment, I am head down working. The mid-May vernissage (by invitation) will debut my “Sarments de Vie” project. Will share the results soon.

Vernissage planning

Vernissage planning

Domain Viticole, Roujan






Donkey by Moonlight

The making of art is often a solitary process. Unless you accept an invitation to an artists’ symposium, which is an inspiring mash-up  of summer camp (silly fun), running a marathon (endurance) and attending a harrowing design critique at art school (humbling, but necessary for onward progress). Oh…and add excellent Italian food and wine for good measure!

Fratello Luna e Fratello L'Asino

Fratello Luna e Fratello L’Asino, diptych

Just returned from 8 days in the Lombardy region of Italy, attending  “L’Asino e la Lunacontemporary art symposium, curated by Marisa Cortese of S.I.V.I.E.R.A, and generously hosted by the Fondazione Emilia Bosis, and its president, Pier Giacomo Luccini.

18 international artists, and a team of support staff spent a week together in a shared atelier producing art, ‘contaminating’ each other with our ideas and process, and exploring the region in horse drawn carriages…..

I fully immersed myself in the artistic experience, filling up my sketchbook with impressions of the week. Here are a few examples….

The symposium theme is inspired by the “L’Asino e la Luna” song by Agostino Celti, whose lyrics  invoke a donkey looking up at the moon, reflecting on their relative position in the universe.


Agostino Celti performing in the painted music room of the Palazzo Barbo

It is almost impossible to describe the charm, and audacity of the location: Cascina Germaglio in Verdello, Bergamo. It is many things:  a residential psychiatric facility for patients diverted from the criminal justice system; a working horse stables and farm (with a Noah’s ark-like collection of animals); and a community space for the town of Verdello.

Most intriguing of all – it contains the Teatro Stalla – a  huge barn-like performance space with a sand-covered floor, theatre lighting & sound systems, and a grand piano. Professional actors and resident patients perform together with animals, in spectacles which are collectively conceived. It is not a circus, it is art, it is therapy, and it is astonishing. A sample video of the upcoming production, “Nel Signo de Caino” can be found here.

Much gratitude my talented fellow artists, sponsors, staff and residents of the Cascina Germaglio, and everyone else who had a hand in making this Bergamo symposium an unforgettable experience.



Tour d’Inquietude (Tower of Anxiety)

When we included my Eiffel Tower sculpture in the shipping container for our move to France last fall, I could not have imagined that this would come next:  preparing an installation for Extraschict 2014, a spectacular art event in Essen, Germany.

As one of the Art Surprise artists, I have been invited to exhibit at a one night spectacle of art, light, and music. Over 150,000 visitors are expected on site at Zeche Zollverein, a Unesco listed industrial site in northwest Germany, which is now a cultural hub.

The Tour d’Inquietude is to be installed in the Umformerhalle, a vast space filled with industrial generating equipment. At 6m (20′) high, the tour has an ominous tilt, and is encircled with ravens, thus fulfilling its role as a scarecrow structure.

I am assisted by the talented Jan Farrant, who has crafted lightweight steel coils to suspend the ravens, and is transporting all the elements to Germany.

Below are some photos of the process thus far. Will post images of the final installation.




Grand Prix for Artists

Artists..start your engines

Artists…start your engines

One of the joys of being a ‘plein air’ painter is facing the all the elements: wind, rain and temperature. On an unexpectedly rain-free Saturday, I took part in the 4th Annual Grand Prix of Painting in Steveston, BC. Hosted by Phoenix Art Workshop, over 80 artists drew lots for one of 36 painting locations in and around Steveston, BC.

The piercing sound of the Gulf of Georgia Cannery steam whistle at 10 am started the ‘race’. Artists spent the next 3 hours capturing the charm and quirks of this riverside community.  Working in either oils, acrylic, pastel and watercolour, every painting expressed a unique vision.

"Local Currency"

“Local Currency”

I incorporated some heritage elements in my piece, referencing the colourful history of Steveston, which was once known as “Salmonopolis”. Titled “Local Currency”, I imagined an 1889-era $20 bill that might have been issued by the ambitious Manoah & Martha Steeves, the founders of the community.  Alas…no such Bank of Salmonopolis exists.

Stephen Chen won the Grand Prix of Art with his beautiful painting of the south arm of the Fraser River.

View the paintings on display 12 – 5pm daily,  until Sunday, September 29th at the Chinese Bunkhouse, Britannia Shipyards, National Historic Site, 5180 Westwater Drive, Richmond BC Phone: 604-718-8050 for info. Art sales, in part, support the Richmond Artists Guild. Thanks to Mark, the terrific volunteers, sponsors and crew who make the Grand Prix possible each year.

Nude at the Chateau

Graphite Sketch Isabelle June 2013

Graphite Sketch Isabelle June 2013

Drawing the human body is a revered artistic tradition, and a challenge to confront at every stage of development as a visual artist.  Life drawing is endlessly interesting and sometimes frustrating, as one tries to capture the essence of a pose in a few quick strokes.

I attend weekly life drawing in an historic chateau on the grounds of an estate winery.  In the civilized way of the French, a sampling of their excellent wine is offered at the end of each  session.

With a large community of painters and sculptors in the towns and hamlets of this region, drawing opportunities abound.  I spent a recent morning in the garden of the Prieuré St. Martial, the home of Hubert and Veronique de Colombe.  (This converted former priory offers 12 beautiful apartments for holiday rentals.)

A third life drawing opportunity is held each week at the charming GalleriMSF.  One memorable day we artists took turns posing ‘au natural’ after the model failed to arrive.  I won’t go into detail about how we must suffer for our art! 

Above the Fold

Herault regional newspaper

Herault regional newspaper interview.

The arts scene in Roujan and region is well supported by the regional newspaper, Midi-Libre. Their local arts and events correspondent, Victor Morales,  came to the GalleriMSF to interview me, with expert translation assistance by Jessie Jones, the gallery curator. The interview was a lively three-way discussion in two languages. The attached article captures the essence of the exposition and the travel journal workshop.

The piece was published in the Saturday paper, with my name in the headline displayed in a startlingly large font. As they say in the trade, “it’s better to be above the fold”.

As the newspaper web site is a curated blog, and doesn’t publish every article online,  I include a pdf of the news item below for downloading for those who read French. Or want to try.


After Jessie departed, Victor and I continued our discussions – using hand gestures to overcome our linguistic barriers.  Turns out he has vivid memories of bookbinding as a youth, and expressed great interest in my sketch of the Alexander woodshed at Sakinah Lake, wanting to know if it was a typical example of regional architecture!

I enjoyed interviewing the interviewer.

Leather and Paper and Thread

Trio of young journal makers

Trio of young journal makers, Kate, Zoe and Emiline

A group of intrepid women and one man assembled at the GalleriMSF in Roujan to try their hand at making a travel journal.  The term for ‘workshop’ in French is ‘atelier animé‘.  It was indeed an animated day, with laughter, concentration, and not a single needle injury!

We worked with beautiful leather acquired en route to France.  Goat hides came from a dusty Moroccan leather shop in Barcelona,  while a buttery piece of calf leather was donated by a handbag studio in Rome. Canson watercolour paper, hand torn and bound into signatures, offered a versatile surface for those who draw, paint, collage or write.

It is one thing to hand-make a beautiful leather bound travel journal. It is quite another to fill it. To ease the fear of a blank page, I shared strategies for getting started, and offered examples of various painting and drawing styles,  including painting with wine…and espresso. Composition tips rounded out the afternoon seminar.

I always credit Mark Glavina of Phoenix Art Workshop in Steveston, BC for inspiring me to take up the art of plein air painting. If I wasn’t in the south of France, I would be travelling in Bali, Indonesia with Mark and his painting group right now.  Columbia in January 2014 is the next proposed destination. Anyone care to join me?

The gallery’s favourite local chef Debbi presented a beautiful lunch to workshop participants, served in the garden.  In the Languedoc region a glass of rosé is required with meals.  The
orange almond cake was sublime. Recipe available for those who send me an email.

Enjoy this gallery of pics from the workshop. Thank you to everyone who participated, and especially Jessie Jones, for her help and coordination.

Le Vernissage complet

Guests from the Languedoc region attended the vernissage May 3

Guests from the Languedoc region attended the vernissage May 3.

My ‘Reconfiguré show opened in Roujan the evening of Friday, May 3rd. It was a wonderful experience. The Centre International et Regional des Arts, GaleriMSF  is housed in a 18th C former ‘barn’, complete with stone rubble walls, ancient crooked beams and a tile roof punctuated by small skylights, which admit narrow streams of intense Languedoc light.
Bright blue shutters on the street side provide a distinctive look along the Avenue Henri Mas.

The opening capped 4 days of on-site work, and many months of preparation. Chuck and I unpacked the boxes of art shipped from Canada, bought frames, assembled the works, ‘mounted’ the exhibition, created labels, and a guest signing board. Gary, our host, made his own preparations, rehearsing with his jazz trio, and organizing our wine sponsor, Domain de Cadablès.  While Jessie Jones, the resident artist and curator, ensured that patrons, supporters and neighbours were invited.

The principal gallery space displays  my ‘Slat Series’ – a group of 15 large ‘reconfigured’ paintings that explore the theme of human intervention in the landscape, as well as several smaller works.  The back room features my travel ‘Plein Air’ sketches, with over 100 reproductions strung like laundry!   (Chuck added a few socks and shirts for effect.)

At 6:30pm, the doors opened, the wine flowed, and there was lots of lively interest and discussion in English & French. The jazz was sublime.  Chuck presented my brief speech en français sparing me the challenge. I wore the beautiful jacket made by my sister Nicky for the occasion. One young guest drew me a charming picture of a tank as a gift. Parfait.

Enjoy this gallery of photos from the evening. Thank you all who helped, and attended.

Art from a Vending Machine

Art Surprise vending machine

Art Surprise vending machine – contemporary art for less than the cost of a deck of smokes!

In one of those serendipitous moments that can often happen while travelling, I met artists Juan Petry (above, right) and Sonia Eva Domenech (not shown) in Barcelona.  Juan initiated a contemporary art project, “Art Surprise” in 2011 which involves selling of contemporary European art using re-purposed cigarette vending machines. At 5 euros per ‘box’ an art lover can sample diverse artists working in a range of mediums. In just 18 months, over 10,000 works have been created by more than 100 artists and sold at these locations across Europe.  As a Canadian artist working in France for the summer, I am delighted to be invited to participate, and will soon be creating my first series of 100 artworks, sized 5cm x 8cm x 1.6cm (which fits nicely inside their elegant custom box). Fabulous idea which could make its way to Vancouver before long….

Art Surprise

Art Surprise

One month till Opening Night

Pic of Print File 1 GMSF ReconfiguredArtwork and sketchbooks are packed.  We will soon depart for France (via London, Barcelona, Tel Aviv & Rome) before settling into the Languedoc region in May. It goes without saying that any Canadian family member or friend who makes their way to Roujan will be a welcome guest. Beds are waiting!   Chuck and I are initially staying at a converted convent near the GaleriMSF, so that we can set up my show, visit the ducks & geese, and acclimatize ourself to village life.  Bon Voyage!