I have painted representational wildflowers most of my life, usually delicately rendered in transparent acrylic or watercolour—often on fabric, later sewn as fine craft. This Spring I chose wildflowers as subjects for an entirely new series of heavily textured, highly expressive, mixed media oil paintings. These explosions of colour and texture are fun to create and likely a reaction to this artist’s pandemic stress. Several of them are now for sale at the Crowsnest Pass Gallery gift shop. Crowsnest Pass Gallery, if you are not familiar with it is located on Highway 3 in Frank, Alberta, just a klik or two west of Frank Slide Interpretive Centre. It is a lovely gallery space and one of the public galleries that hosted my first solo exhibition while it was on tour. Here is a link to their website. https://www.crowsnestpasspublicartgallery.com/
Species at Risk is the title of an ongoing, new series of art cards I have been creating this Spring. The purpose is to raise awareness of the environmental impact of open-pit coal mining in the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains. I am donating all proceeds from sale of these cards, except for my cost of printing and gallery commissions, to Alberta Wilderness Association https://albertawilderness.ca/ AWA is a federally registered Canadian charitable organization and one of the groups lobbying so hard to protect the Eastern Slopes.
Watercolours in the series are painted specifically for reproduction as art cards. Species at Risk cards are 5 x 7” with envelopes, professionally printed on linen-finish card stock. The back of each card carries a brief narrative about the subject. Cards are priced at $6.00 each and are individually packaged in cellophane sleeves.
In addition to buying cards directly from me, I am arranging with gallery shops in southern Alberta to carry them. Species at Risk cards should be available shortly at Crowsnest Pass Gallery, Lebel Mansion gift shop in Pincher Creek, Gust Gallery in Waterton National Park, Leighton Art Centre near Calgary and AAC Works gift shop in Lethbridge. If you wish to purchase cards from me directly, please email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Species at Risk as a personal art project developed after an initial conversation with Dr. Ian Urquhart of AWA in January. Open-pit, strip mining or mountain-top removal mining is on a truly massive scale. If you have ever driven toward Butte, Montana you will see the degree of devastation that we may be facing soon.
Working on this series has given me a sincere appreciation for the dedication of individual biologists, environmental scientists and the various other individuals and groups advocating for protection of our mountains and water. I am also thankful to the photographers who have allowed me to use their images as references.
Iconic mountain trees and my first subjects are the high elevation pine trees Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis) and Whitebark Pine (Pinus albicaulis). They are extremely long-lived and slow growing. Both are listed as endangered species federally and provincially. These tree species do not become mature or cone-bearing for 40 and 50 years respectively. Some of them may live for more than 1,000 years
The Grassy Mountain Coal Project is an open-pit, steelmaking coal mining project proposed in the Crowsnest Pass area of the Eastern Slopes. Approximately 21,000 Whitebark Pine will be removed for this project alone and it is only the first of similar mining projects proposed in the Crowsnest Pass region. Although Grassy Mountain project approval requires that the company ameliorate loss by re-planting, the natural, high elevation habitat will be gone.
Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus) and Westslope Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi) are listed species, classified as “threatened” federally and provincially. Both are native to tributary streams in headwaters of the Oldman and Bow River systems in southern Alberta. There are various risk factors but of looming concern is the effect of open-pit coal mining on habitat.
Water quality and quantity are both at issue. We do not know what percentage of the average annual flow of water in tributary streams will be diverted to feed coal mining activities such as Grassy Mountain, Tent Mountain and other open-pit mining projects proposed in the Crowsnest Pass. These native fish need cold, clear water. Increased sedimentation and the seemingly inescapable leaching of selenium are both harmful consequences of coal mining. Selenium is known to be toxic to fish. There is apparently no effective technology to prevent or remove selenium from the water.
Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos) is another iconic symbol of our wilderness and is designated as being a species at risk both federally in Canada and provincially in Alberta. Quoting from an article published by Alberta Wilderness Association on their website: “The future survival and recovery of Alberta’s grizzly bears depends on the protection and recovery of the landscapes that they rely on.” Disruption of their range, degradation and further fragmentation of natural grizzly bear habitat following from proposed open-pit coal mining in the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains will undoubtedly put further pressure on grizzly bear recovery efforts.
Viewpoints are an ongoing series of studio paintings unified by their focus on human-made landscape subjects which are geometric or architectural rather than organic. It seems that we attach far less aesthetic value to industrial sites or old alleys than we do natural places. Landscapes are something I enjoy painting and do paint regularly, developed either in the studio as contemporary mixed media work, or painted alla prima outdoors. Non-traditional landscape subjects also have grace and stories inherent in them just as worthy of artistic exploration.
I have been working on Viewpoints for several years now in tandem with other studio work. In terms of pure design aesthetics, graphic shapes and forms are a compelling point of departure in developing an interesting composition. Some are highly expressive or abstracted, others purely representational. Viewpoints often present drawing challenges but have also presented opportunities to explore different approaches to painting with oil.