walker

Solo show at La Fab Gallery, Chelsea, Quebec

jwalkerdesign

I was delighted to have my first solo show Meadowlarking in a beauty of an old building, the rectory of St. Stephen’s in Chelsea, QC, just outside of Ottawa. Who doesn’t love a building with a turret! Many thanks to the fabulous, hardworking volunteers there and all the wonderful art lovers who stopped by and bought paintings!!.

Statement:

free
and outside
wandering, open hearted
in the woods
in the meadows
then home
with your spoils.

The sense of immersion in nature is a memory that connects with many of us. For me it flows from the experience of a childhood spent mostly outdoors, and for many years now, as a denizen of Chelsea beside the Gatineau Park.  I have been inspired recently by countries who have granted legal personhood to natural systems such as Switzerland, Ecuador and New Zealand. Blending the simpler motifs of design with the free and personal style of abstract expressionism, I seek to explore some of the sense of ‘personhood’, sometimes lost to childhood, that the natural world so often appears to embody.

 My dear pal with other dear pal’s kids. Artists need pals to attend vernissages and bring the champers for later.

My dear pal with other dear pal’s kids. Artists need pals to attend vernissages and bring the champers for later.

 I got to hang work in the hall too. This one,  Vessel , was the most recent piece painted.

I got to hang work in the hall too. This one, Vessel, was the most recent piece painted.

The Old Vicarage Garden, East Ruston, Norfolk, UK

jwalkerdesign
 My favourite shot.

My favourite shot.

I’m recently back from a trip to the ‘homeland’, the UK, specifically East Anglia, land of my birth and upbringing. I miss it...a lot. I miss the people big time of course but my anguish is a double whammy, I also miss the landscape...no offense beautiful Canada. As an immigrant and a long standing one at that, I carry the background static many of us feel, of not having ones anchor sunk that deep any place. If I was to move back to England tomorrow, I know I would ‘pine’ for Canada...hehe.

So this trip I was determined to A) see the peeps, B) see the sea, and C) see an English garden, and wow did we stumble upon a stunner.

The Old Vicarage Garden, started from scratch in 1973 by Alan Gray and Graham Robeson, now comprises 32 acres of garden ‘rooms’ and woodlands and incredible long vistas ending in wonderful focal points. It is a work of art and then some. Only 1.5 miles from the sea, this helps keep the frost at bay and enables these genius gardeners to grow out of zone and have very tropical looking plants and trees.

This being an art blog and not a travel blog, art blagging ensues...

But first a picture of the resident kitty who visited us in the garden tea room patio where we enjoyed our deliciously fortifying cream tea.

 Lucky lucky kitten.

Lucky lucky kitten.

I have a thing for architectural terms and got right into the whole idea of human scaled and pleasing architectural design after reading A Pattern Language by architect Christopher Alexander et al (1977). Basically the psychology of how the places we hang affect us mentally and emotionally. Which brings me to enfilade, a favourite concept and lovely word. My house being on the smaller side doesn’t facilitate this too well but I am often contemplating ways to do it anyway. In architecture, an enfilade is a suite of rooms formally aligned with each other. Ideally this long-ish vista ends with a focal point, a fireplace, window or painting perhaps. I don’t know if there’s a specific gardening term for it but the Old Vicarage Garden has a gorgeous suite of them. 

 The vicarage itself, home to Graham and Alan.

The vicarage itself, home to Graham and Alan.

We came across this fabulous and legendarily difficult to grow plant, the Himalayan Poppy. I have heard that this is the only truly blue flower (there must be others) but suffice to say blue is super rare in the plant kingdom...practically non-existent. There’s plenty that approximate blue but nah-ah, there will always be a tinge of red in them that heads off in the direction of mauve or lilac. Why is this I wonder? I googled it, briefly, and read that this is because plants have evolved to favour red and yellow for pollination purposes BUT wha? I can’t speak for the birds but the bees love blue, I mean they LOVE it.  Ok, here’s my kooky theory. Blue recedes; it is one of those things that can be a real composition buster in painting. Blue will punch holes in your art. What I mean is that reds comes forward and blues recede and this is a great way to create depth but blue things, centrally located (rather than backgrounds) can visually pull back in a way that creates a challenging visual hole. Hans Hoffman would call this tension plasticity.

So, could it be that nature knows this? I sometimes marvel at the composition of specific ecosystems and wonder at their complementary elements. Beaches, woodlands; you couldn’t switch chunks of ’em around and have it work as well; switch palm trees for pines for example. Maybe great swaths of true blue plants just doesn’t visually work with that big ol’ background blue of the sky? Putting holes in Nature’s staggeringly gorgeous compositions? Just theorizing...

 The Himalayan Poppy. The only truly blue flower?

The Himalayan Poppy. The only truly blue flower?

 Archways, so tantalizingly beckoning...

Archways, so tantalizingly beckoning...

jakes hotel, jamaica

jwalkerdesign
 Entering Jakes

Entering Jakes

In August 2015 we stayed at Jakes Hotel (with 2 teenage boys). Since this is an art blog I’ll stick to the arty bits. Jakes is extra special because artist Sally Henzel created its unique, sometimes called boho on the beach, cottages, pool, spa, bar and other spots. Mosaics, coloured glass embedded in walls (that make places glow from the inside at night), natural style lighting hanging low from the many variety of trees, gorgeous flora, colours you could drink and funky, interesting forms abound. Inside, there is wonderful art and block print fabrics. As an ex mosaicist with a penchant for warm colours and natural materials, I was loving being there.

Sally Henzel was set designer on the 1972 movie The Harder They Come with Jimmy Cliff. Credited with being the movie that brought reggae to the world (thank you!!!), Sally’s late husband Perry was the co-writer, producer and director. We watched it while there and I spotted hits of red in the super cool set designs and noticed that one also sees these red highlights all over Jakes. Ahhh red with sea greens and turquoise-blues...a fave colour combo of mine; could look at it all day. Anyway, a big thank you to Sally for creating such a wonder!

Jakes is part of the Treasure Beach community and have lots of amazing projects on the go through their Breds Foundation including a sports park, a fishing sanctuary and a primary school. There are no brand-resorts in Treasure Beach. You aren’t gated in and you can walk around and experience the community, eat in the local restaurants and stroll around safely (within reason) in the cooler evenings.

If you are the sort that appreciates a non-carbon copy type of hotel, designed by a real artist, then I would certainly recommend Jakes. Also, the food is great.

My pics are not as good as the professional ones one can find on the net... check ’em out for more Jakes.

I don”t often try out magical-thinking but being desperate for a bit of sand and sea I had been visualizing lying in bed and being able to look out at the waves way before booking this place...well whaddaya know...surprise!!! Note the orange headboard of a sea view bed in the background that I had no idea came with this place till we arrived!

 My fellas on the porch of our pink and yellow cottage (Jack Spratt).

My fellas on the porch of our pink and yellow cottage (Jack Spratt).

 Our outdoor shower was pure heaven. The flowering tree above kindly dropped blossoms at our feet.   

Our outdoor shower was pure heaven. The flowering tree above kindly dropped blossoms at our feet.

 

 Can I live here? Can we get this moved to Chelsea, Quebec?   

Can I live here? Can we get this moved to Chelsea, Quebec?

 

 Interesting botanical forms abound at Jakes...inspiring for this painter.   

Interesting botanical forms abound at Jakes...inspiring for this painter.

 

 Cushion covers and bedspreads are in a variety of block prints. Even the beach towels they provide are cool.

Cushion covers and bedspreads are in a variety of block prints. Even the beach towels they provide are cool.

 Lovely mosaic touches on pathways.   

Lovely mosaic touches on pathways.

 

This path is a wonderful example of a design consideration which is family and contrast (I don’t know if it is actually called this). I first heard about it reading up on garden design. Quite pleasing for instance is when you grow adjacent plants that are a family but also opposites. Say one grows 2 plants side by side that both have similar forms, say orbs, maybe even the same-ish purply-blue (ornamental onions?). If they were too much the same it would be boring but, if one flower is noticeably smaller that the other and also perhaps a much lighter hue, then we have the beginnings of design magic. 

Here we have a family of paving materials with the large desaturated colour of the main slab contrasting beautifully with the small colourful mosaic pieces. I would even guess that if you took the colours of the mosaics and mixed them up, you may very well end up with the colour of the stone. There is also the relatively organized structure of the path versus the rough ground. Also the lighter hued framing for the slabs is the perfect width somehow....like a balancing act of weight. This is what I think Rothko’s work is partly about, though he would vehemently disagree; he never appreciated people noticing the exquisite balance of his compositions rather than his true intent, their emotional symbolism.

 Tone-on-tone lovely lovely greys.   

Tone-on-tone lovely lovely greys.

 

 How about this pink?   

How about this pink?

 

 One of 3 Octopussy cottages. Seriously, google the inside of these places.   

One of 3 Octopussy cottages. Seriously, google the inside of these places.

 

 View from Dougie’s Bar.

View from Dougie’s Bar.