Friday, September 28, 2018

Making Art Inspired by the Dumoine River

I previously blogged about the art retreat that I had been selected to attend that was organized by the Canadian Park and Wilderness (Ottawa Valley chapter known as CPAWS-OV). The retreat is called the Dumoine River Art For Wilderness (DRAW) and it took place on the Dumoine River in Quebec this past August.

Group photo taken at the Moore Farm in Gatineau, Qc. at the June DRAW2018 Meet and Greet
From August 1-6, 2018, approximately thirty staff, volunteers and artists camped on the shore of Robinson Lake and created art.

My plein air set-up on Day 2; Grand Chutes, Dumoine River
Below is a very brief report on some of the art that I created that was inspired by the incredible Dumoine river: my donated art; my plein air paintings; my sketches and some printmaking that I did while I was at camp and at home.

 My Donated Art

The DRAW retreat is free for all participating artists, in exchange, all artists will donate one completed piece to CPAWS-OV to help support the campaigns that protect the Dumoine River and wilderness across Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec.

The piece that I donated is called ”The Last Portage/Heading Home”

”The Last Portage/Heading Home”; acrylic; 10 x 20
Title:”The Last Portage/Heading Home”
Size: 10 x 20 inches
Medium: Acrylic on cradled birch panel

“Along the 129 kilometres of the Dumoine river in Quebec, you can still hear ancient conversations between the river rocks and the water at every rapid, swift, chute and waterfall.
At the mouth of the Dumoine where it meets the Ottawa river, below Ryan’s Chute, the river grows quieter and slower.
That’s where I spotted artists/canoeists Becky and Reid heading home.”

There will be an exhibition of the art made by ALL of the DRAW 2018 artists from October 5-8 (Thanksgiving weekend) at Cidrerie Coronation Hall Cider Mills, Bristol Quebec. Please drop by if you can!

I also donated a 5 x 7 acrylic painting of Ottawa-based forager, wildcrafter, writer and educator Bryan Dowkes to the CPAWS-OV office.

Ottawa-based forager, wildcrafter, writer and educator Bryan Dowkes

Bryan joined us at the Dumoine river and shared his deep love for the outdoors and his years of experience foraging.

Bryan serving the fermented wild soda prepared two days earlier
The four wild sodas that Bryan created during the week were: white pine and sweet fern; blueberry, wood sorrel, wintergreen and juniper berries; strawberry, lime and wood sorrel; and the everything soda with strawberry, lime and wood sorrel. Can I just say that they were absolutely delicious! Thank you Bryan!

(The sodas that Bryan created were based on The Wildcrafting Brewer: Creating Unique Drinks and Boozy Concoctions from Nature’s Ingredients by Pascal Baudar.)

My Plein Air Paintings

I created three acrylic plein air paintings on the second day of camp (Thursday August 2, 2018: see the photo of the Grande Chutes above for the first two) This painting (below) that I called "Sacred Rock" was inspired by the egg-shaped rock located in the exact same spot at the two Grand Chutes paintings but facing in the opposite direction away from the river.

My reference photo of "Sacred Rock"
"Sacred Rock"; 6 x 6 acrylic/mixed media

The unfinished painting below was created at the Open House that was held on the last day (Sunday August 5, 2018) at camp. I had just started blocking in the colours with my palette knife when the Open House guests started arriving and I greeted them showing them around camp and I eventually abandoned the painting!

Unfinished painting "Robindson Lake"
I posted the unfinished painting on social media and then took a twitter and facebook poll for fun asking people if I should "Work On It?" or "Leave it Alone?"

To my surprise, the majority of "voters" wanted me to "Leave It Alone!" I must say that I am tempted to, at a minimum, add some branches to the trees

The photo I took of the scene before I started painting

My Sketches

I did a number of sketches at camp in my Strathmore art journal and a number of additional sketches when I got home from camp. Here are just a few ...

I sketched Bruce and Lynn's camper while waiting for a drive to the Grand Chutes
On Saturday August 4, 2018 in the evening after our pontoon ride to Ryan's Chute, the night sky was clear enough to see the planet Mars (at its closest to earth since 2003 and won't be closer until 2035) , some shooting stars (from the Perseid meteor shower ), Cassiopeia and a satellite overhead. I made a visual note of it in my sketchbook.

Mars and some shooting stars from the Perseid meteor shower
I was pretty impressed with my ability to keep everything to a bare minimum in terms of luggage. My goal was to be able to carry everything all at once without making multiple trips to and from the campsite and I succeeded! Five items in total: (1) Duffle bag on wheels with (2) sleeping bag attached; (3) Back Pack with easel, paints, and tripod chair; (4) Tent, camp chair and tarp bungeed together and (5) my shoulder bag sketch kit.

I did a quick sketch of ALL my bags in the early morning before my transportation to camp arrived
I did lots of sketches of the artists at the retreat once I got home.

The sketch below of artist Christopher Griffin captures how he worked all week. I was in awe actually. Propping large pieces of canvas and painting with bitumen it was quite brilliant and amazing to watch!

Artist Christopher Griffin


In addition to my watercolour sketches and acrylic paintings, I brought my printmaking materials to the Dumoine river. I brought my Akua Intaglio black ink because these inks are:
"...non-toxic and fume free. They can be used for all types of intaglio, photopolymer methods, relief and monotype. They are the only inks with endless open time – they will never skin over in the jar or dry on a plate.

These inks clean up is easy with just soap and water, not hazardous solvents, leaving you with more studio time!

Soy-based with a high pigment load, Akua inks deliver rich, vibrant colours and strong blacks without compromising your health."
Creating a monotype of "Goats Island" based on my morning sketch

My early morning sketch of "Goats Island"; watercolour in Strathmore 500 series Mixed media Paper (100% cotton)
First Pull Monotype; "Goats Island"
Monotype; "Goats Island" colourized with watercolour and watercolour pencil
I also decided to create a linocut of "Goats Island" with the intention of doing a three-colour reduction. I did not make the September 27 deadline for artwork but I intend to continue with this linocut and will update this post when I am done.

The design for my linocut
The linocut is ready for the first colour


First of all, I want to thank ALL of the CPAWS-OV staff, organizers and volunteers for organizing this great artist retreat.

Thank you CPAWS-OV staff and volunteers!

I want to also thank ALL of the artists who attended the week. I returned home so enriched and inspired from witnessing the many different styles and mediums.

I want to give special thanks to artist Marie-Christine Bedard and her partner for driving me to the Swisha so that I could attend DRAW 2018 and also artist Charlotte King for driving me home to my family in Ottawa.

I am looking forward to the Exhibition (October 5-8) in Bristol, Quebec and the Soiree at the Ottawa Art Gallery on November 14th.
The evening will feature a display of artwork created during our 2018 Dumoine River Art for Wilderness retreat. All of the artwork will be available for sale by silent auction during the event. Artwork by established and emerging artists will be available, including pieces by Aleta Karstad, Phil Chadwick and many others. To learn more about the artwork available for auction, please click here (

The event takes place in the Alma Duncan Salon at the Ottawa Art Gallery and we would love to see you there!

Links to my previous blog posts about DRAW 2018