Friday, 29 November 2013

Charles Edenshaw and Kimsooja at VAG

I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery last Saturday by accident - or, more precisely, to avoid an accident.  I was riding home from Granville Island, rapidly, in the (awesome) dedicated bike lane on Hornby St, when two city workers carefully looked at me approaching, then stepped right in front of me with a traffic barricade.  I swerved to avoid crashing through them, then swerved to avoid a pedestrian, and ended up pretty much at the gallery entrance.  Figuring that it wasn't safe to cycle in Vancouver at that moment, in I went.  I hadn't been inspired enough by the publicity for the current exhibitions to bother going before, but I'm glad I did.
The main exhibit was work by Charles Edenshaw, a Haida carver from the turn of the previous century.  We see a lot of coastal native wood-carving here, and it is all so well done that we get a bit blase.  But his work really stood out for the fine detail of the work, and the variety of media - some wood, but lots of argyllite (a fine-textured ebony black claystone), silver, gold and ivory, as well as paintings and drawings on paper and woven hats and baskets.  It's powerful to see the various Haida motifs repeated in the different media.  It was really an excellent exhibit, and worth a repeat visit.
The other exhibit I saw was by Kimsooja, a contemporary Korean artist, who works with textiles and video.  Normally, neither would be high on my favourites list, but the textile work was appealing at first because of its exuberance, and then because it was thought-provoking in subtle ways.  But it was her large-scale, multi-screen videos that were most entrancing - again, worth the price of admission (especially if you have a membership and it's free).
I like to draw in galleries, because it makes me look at a few works carefully and makes a much richer experience.  Sometimes I feel like a bit of a lunatic, sketching in front of one piece for several minutes, while everyone else spends their average 3.5 seconds and rushes on (now that I think about it, that was a theme in Kimsooja's video installations).  But this Saturday there was a huge crowd of fellow sketching lunatics.  It was Family Day so admittedly all the other sketchers were knee-high, but sometimes it's good to just be the biggest lunatic, not the only one.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Granville Island

Urban Sketchers met at Granville Island on one of those clear cold days when you understand why people worship the sun.  Unfortunately aesthetic pickiness overruled thermoregulatory common-sense for me, so I sat in the shade to draw.  I'm sure my extremities will thaw in the spring.
In the first view, the composition of the dock and pilings, and the background were the attraction.  The Vancouver "City of Glass" sometimes seems like the architectural equivalent of a monoculture, but today the blue glass against the blue sky had more of a feel of an airy mythical city in the sky.  The second little vignette is the buffer to stop boats from running into the base of the Granville Street bridge.  It has a definite jerry-built look to it.  It was catching a stray sunbeam that navigated through various structures to get there, illuminating the plants and algae that have colonized the structure.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Dark rainy November in Vancouver

Everybody knows that November in Vancouver is cold, rainy and dark.  It's a main reason that embarrassed citizens of a certain large city in central Canada don't all flee here.  But fortunately, like many things that everyone knows, it's not true.  Or at least, not completely true.  Below are 6 drawings from Vancouver in the middle of November:
November 11, warm and sunny, thankfully for the remaining vets who didn't have to stand in a freezing drizzle. 

November 12, socked in rainy, until just before sunset, when the sun dropped below the clouds and lit up the whole world in a way that makes you forget the rest of the day.  I call this a "redemption sky", used with exactly that meaning in the play Life After God by Michael MacLennan and Douglas Coupland, set right here on the North Shore.  It happens a lot, as it often clears up first over the ocean to the west.

November 13. Sunny, calm morning at the local tidal flats (although I had a bit of a Hitchcock moment when I looked up to realize 50 crows had flown silently into the tree right behind me as I drew.  They had a hungry look...)

November 14 was a draw-inside day, and November 15 was mostly worse.  But with a house that colour, who needs sunshine?

November 16 and 17 were cold and overcast but not raining for the East Vancouver Culture Crawl, which I modified on the Sunday into the West Vancouver Swamp Crawl, because of a reported rare bird.  It was a no-show, but I actually like standing around in swamps, amusing the local chickadees and passing soccer moms who all thought I was daft.

November 18 was bit forgettable, but today was sparkling clear, with a cold dry northern wind - perfect for a quick sketch of the view from the shelter of the front porch.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

1000 Parker Street

It is the East Vancouver Culture Crawl this weekend, with hundreds of open studios.  The building at 1000 Parker Street is the biggest, with over 100 artists.  The building itself is a prime attraction, an old mattress factory (so I overheard today) with an ancient elevator, equally ancient plumbing and slightly less ancient wiring.  Normal laws of geometry don't apply there - you can walk in a straight line and end up where you started, or go down a flight of stairs and come out on the top floor.  As I sketched amid the throngs in the hallways, 50% of conversations were navigational in nature ("Haven't we been down this hall before?", "Is the main floor up or down?", "She's your kid, you go find her."), 40% involved fire exits, the sprinkler system or earthquakes, and 10% were about art/food/washrooms/lost poodles.  With all the sketching, I forgot to look at the art, so I'll have to go back tomorrow (unless tomorrow ends up being last Thursday, which might just happen at 1000 Parker Street.)

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

North Shore birding spots

 Two places to bird-watch on the North Shore, and two reasons for bird-watching: 1) A good excuse to get out on a beautiful day and not really do anything.  2) To see an exciting bird!  Maplewood Flats in North Vancouver was the bright sunny spot for lounging on the construction-debris-landfill beach on Sunday, with a view to the north and the recently snow-topped mountains.  Ambleside pond in West Vancouver had the exciting bird - a Harris's sparrow, which was a "lifer" for me today (#1201, if you care...).  They breed at treeline in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, and winter in Texas and thereabouts, so they are rare visitors to the West Coast, worth the short ride from home on a cold damp day.  (Even worth withstanding the onslaught of off-leash dogs at the park - I love dogs, but I also enjoy the occasional dog-free moment, which was notably absent this morning.)  The lovely creature itself is at the bottom, looking like it was drawn from a photograph, which it was.