Canada

From Polar Bear to Pet Portrait - It's All in the Eyes

Although I am an experienced portrait artist, over the past few years, my online presence has evolved to that of polar bear artist. Recent followers do not know about my portrait painting service. And so recently, when out of the blue, I was contacted to paint a portrait of a very lovely Labrador Retriever, it was interesting for me to learn that one of my polar bear paintings had inspired the commission!

Golden Lab Commission. 24” x 24” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague Contact me  here , or visit  Commission a Portrait .

Golden Lab Commission. 24” x 24” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague Contact me here, or visit Commission a Portrait.

How does a polar bear painting possibly relate to a portrait of a beloved pet?

It lies in that fact that I regard all my subject matter as portraiture, and my polar bear art is no different. I paint with the theory the eyes are the “mirror to the soul”. Until I get the eyes “right”, until they feel alive to me, I personally don’t connect to the painting. When that magical moment of connection happens, then the painting is on its way!

All artists have their own way of approaching a painting, especially when painting from photographic reference. Some artists apply the paint inch by inch, finishing each section completely before moving on to the next.

I use the more “whole painting” approach in my technique, but I start each session with the eyes and work out from there. As each new layer of paint is added, my focus remains on the eyes, until finally, the portrait comes to life in my imagination.

I have a biology degree, a fine art degree and most of an illustration degree. As a result, I like my portraits to be realistic and anatomically correct, yet emotional, too. But my ability to draw from my imagination, honed from my illustration studies, plays an important part in this process, too. One learns to be a bit of an actor - to feel that emotion and spirit of the subject and to try transfer it to the canvas.

For example, when I was commissioned to paint Dr. Oscar Peterson (Living Arts Centre, Mississauga, ON, Canada), I was honoured and thrilled to paint the jazz great’s portrait, but I had also never seen or met him in person. This was a larger than life portrait and I was working from someone else’s photographs. .

How was I to connect to the subject and make it more than a copy of a photograph?

First, I brought the whole painting to the edge of completion. It was a large painting (larger than life) and a complex one , as in fact it was multi-portraits.. Dr. Peterson’s piano was to be accurately represented. His hands were a portrait in themselves. And his face was clearly selected in the piano top!

So with the face roughed in, I began the final painting of it as I listened to the emotion- filled, heartfelt tribute of music and song that aired on CBC Radio that day. As his teenage daughter spoke lovingly about Oscar Peterson, the father, I did the final paint of his eyes and face.

So, when I began to paint polar bears, I wondered, how to bring the bears alive? How to make them more than a reproduction of a photo I took of a polar bear at the Toronto Zoo?

So for the painting below, Polar Bear Portrait Study 1 (Wistful Bear) ( and a couple of others in this earlier series) I placed my laptop on a stool in front me, as if a portrait model on a chair. One of my polar bear photos was up on the screen. I then created the polar bear portrait as if the bear was seated there in front of me. (wouldn’t that have been fun, although short lived.) Once again, the eyes say it all in this painting. (Read more about this painting here)

Wistful. Polar bear portrait. 12” x 12” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague Contact me  here

Wistful. Polar bear portrait. 12” x 12” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague Contact me here

So when Ottawa’s CTV news reporter and anchor, Christina Succi contacted me to paint a portrait of her beloved dog, I was flattered, but also surprised to learn that it was one of my polar bear paintings that inspired her request. But then I learned which painting and then saw a photo of her dear doggy,

Can you see the connection?

Wistful Bear      and the  dog portrait  it  inspired  side by side. ©Christine Montague

Wistful Bear and the dog portrait it inspired side by side. ©Christine Montague

If you would like to know more about my polar bear art , or info on how to commission a portrait, please feel free to contact me here.

The Fall

The Fall is a portrait of a polar bear on its solitary journey in the arctic night, unaware that a red maple leaf (Canada’s national symbol) falls before it from above. The fall colour of the maple tree isn’t part of this bear’s autumn landscape, but the frozen sea, so vital for its survival, is. Increased periods of open water from spring to fall, due to climate change, increases the polar bear’s vulnerability.

Painted in wonder and warning,The Fall pays tribute to an iconic Canadian animal, and connects Canadians in the responsibility to protect it, thereby protecting and saving ourselves.

The Fall. An original oil painting ©Christine Montague 2018

The Fall. An original oil painting ©Christine Montague 2018

Why the Canadian connection? Although one of the world’s most favourite animals, polar bears are only found in Canada, Alaska (USA), Russia and Norway. 60 - 80 % of the world’s population are found in Canada. The Fall has a “sister” painting, the award winning “The Canadian Flower Crown”. Read about it here

I am pleased to announce The Fall has been accepted into ARTWORKS 2018, the OCADU Alumni Show, December 2 -8, 2018. The Great Hall, OCADU. 100 McCaul St., Toronto. More Info and opening reception date & time here

In Honour and Celebration

Polar Bear Painting About Tribute Wins an Award of Its Own

My polar bear oil painting Canadian Flower Crown was accepted in, and was awarded 1st prize, The Jurors’ Award, the respected Headwaters Arts Annual Juried Art Show, (on until October 8, 2018) Headwaters Arts Gallery, Alton Mill, Caledon. It was an honour for me, that my polar bear painting about tribute and celebration of this magnificent animal, received a tribute of its own!

Jurors  Sue Powell ,  Regan Hayward , artist  Christine Montague,  and juror  Jill Price  with   Canadian Flower Crown     at the  Jurors walk,   Headwaters Arts Gallery , Alton Mill, Ontario, Canada.

Jurors Sue Powell, Regan Hayward, artist Christine Montague, and juror Jill Price with Canadian Flower Crown at the Jurors walk, Headwaters Arts Gallery, Alton Mill, Ontario, Canada.

It was especially gratifying and encouraging that not only did the accomplished jurors, Sue Powell, Regan Hayward and Jill Price, accept my polar bear painting into the show, but that they so clearly understood its message.

The effect of climate change, particularly vanishing sea ice is central to all my art work. In this polar bear portrait, a solitary bear is adorned in honour and celebration with a flower crown composed of the flowers of the Canadian provinces and territories, as well the nation’s symbol, the maple leaf. The polar bear is one of the world’s most loved animals, but it is Canada, that is home to 60 - 80% of the polar bear population. This magnificent, highly intelligent bear is significantly intertwined with the Canadian identity, and yet, its status in Canada, is vulnerable. 

Canadian Flower Crown, although a recent creation, was one I had in the works in my head for a few years.

(See more polar bear art here)

I was often surrounded by beautiful flowers, especially magnificent flower crowns, as my daughter was a floral designer. Keeping her company I would doodle, and flower-crowned polar bears made their way on the page.

But it wasn’t until I started to create my work for my 2018 Dark Water solo exhibit, that a flower crown polar bear insisted it appear on canvas. It became a mental block to my creating new paintings that were to be of polar bears in dark water. The only way to solve this, was to paint it, so I could get on with the show!

Canadian Flower Crown took more research and planning than most of my paintings. I had learn what the flowers of each province and territory are, their size, and their proportion in relation to a polar bear’s head. It would be so easy for this bear to be “cute” or “pretty” in a flower crown.

By showing its very large teeth, this polar bear remains the powerful animal it is.

Cape Dorset Walkabout

Follow the Yellow (make that ochre) Dirt Roads

I visited the Canadian Arctic for the first time in May, 2014. After a day in Iqaluit (Nunavut's capital) I flew to Cape Dorset (pop. approx 1300) at the southern tip of Baffin Island. 

Although the landscape surrounding Cape Dorset is stunning, it was the ochre ribbon-like roads looping through the hamlet, and the constant activity on them, that intrigued me most.  Most people walk or drive ATVs (skidoos in winter) to socialize, shop and work. There are few larger vehicles, but the school bus seems always on the go, as are the trucks that deliver fresh water and empty the septic tanks. Thus my first steps out on the town (well, hamlet) were a delightful contrast to my city experience, where the roads are hectic and the sidewalks empty.

The hope and promise of Cape Dorset is represented in it's wonderful children. Photo: ©Christine Montague www.christinemontague.com

The hope and promise of Cape Dorset is represented in it's wonderful children. Photo: ©Christine Montague www.christinemontague.com

Next to my hotel (Dorset Suites), and across from Tellik Inlet, is the world-renowned Kinngait Arts Studio, the oldest printing studio in Canada.  The distinctive red-roofed, green and yellow buildings (seen below), have been around since 1957. This summer (2017) work has begun on the new cultural centre and studios. To see larger images please click on the photos below. 

Panoramic view of Kinngait Arts and kellit bay, Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague 2014

Panoramic view of Kinngait Arts and kellit bay, Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague 2014

Below:Tellik Inlet by Kinngait Arts. Turn right to go to the two grocery and supply stores, and the RCMP station. Turn left to find the Wildlife Office, the municipal pier, and the gazebo on the hill.

Christine-Montague-tellik-inlet-1
Christine-Montague-tellik-inlet-1

The gazebo, seen from most vantage points of the hamlet, is an unusual landmark for such a northern community, but, hey, I loved it. A sheltered bit of architecture, where I could start each day and take in the glorious landscape. In the picture below, you can spot the gazebo above the Wildlife Office (the building on the left ). Click on the picture below to see a larger image

Wildlife Dept.building.  Cape Dorset. Photo:Christine Montague
Wildlife Dept.building. Cape Dorset. Photo:Christine Montague
Huge. and I mean,  huge , polar bear skin dries on stretcher. Photo: ©Christine Montague 2014

Huge. and I mean, huge, polar bear skin dries on stretcher. Photo: ©Christine Montague 2014

The polar bear hide seen above was huge. I mean hair-raising, goose bump inspiring big. I wish I had thought to put my hand or iPhone by a paw for reference.

Meanwhile, on the same day I happily arrived in Cape Dorset,  a polar bear attacked two Arctic Bay hunters as they slept in their tent.  They survived, but only after a fight for their lives. For a dramatic account of the attack, and some equally dramatic polar bear facts, read http://www.nunatsiaqonline.ca/stories/article/65674nunavut_polar_bear_attack_survivors_thankful_to_be_alive/

I love polar bears, and my polar bear paintings are portraiture tributes to these great mammals whose future is of concern. But up north? One can never forget these beautiful, intelligent, powerful kings of the arctic are dangerous.

Big Bear Passing (48" by 36" polar bear oil painting by Christine Montague )

Big Bear Walking  . polar bear painting ©Christine Montague

Big Bear Walking. polar bear painting ©Christine Montague

So, up the hill to the gazebo.

Up to the gazebo. Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

Up to the gazebo. Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

Gazebo. Cape Dorset, Nunavut. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Gazebo. Cape Dorset, Nunavut. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Looking down at pier on Tellik Inlet from gazebo. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

Looking down at pier on Tellik Inlet from gazebo. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

Kinngait mountain as seen from the gazebo. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

Kinngait mountain as seen from the gazebo. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

 Below. Snowmobilers travel on frozen Tellik Inlet to get to open water beyond.

Inuit hunters head out on the land. As seen from the gazebo in Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague www.christinemontague.com

Inuit hunters head out on the land. As seen from the gazebo in Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague www.christinemontague.com

Christine-Montague-cape-dorset-gazebo-view_edited-1
Christine-Montague-cape-dorset-gazebo-view_edited-1

I was forewarned to expect roads thick with mud, but they were dry and solid. Later in summer, when the roads become too dry, passing ATVs and the odd car send up clouds of pervasive dust. But for now, as it was the first week of sunny, cheery weather, children, especially boys, were out on their bikes, pedalling uphill with admirable ease.

Bicyclist in Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Bicyclist in Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague

To be continued...

Note: I use a Sony A7r with 35mm Zeiss lens.  iPhone 5s was my back up. 

Nunavut Vistas: 10 Panoramic Cape Dorset Landscapes

Inspired by family members who loved working in the Canadian Arctic,  I jumped at the chance to visit the tiny hamlet of Cape Dorset, Nunavut when the opportunity arrived in late spring (May 2014). My trip wouldn't allow time for me to paint, but there was endless opportunity for me to use my camera (new at the time)  the very small, very light, but full frame Sony A7r with a 35mm Zeiss lens. This was also my first camera to have a panoramic feature. It was tempting to make every photo a panoramic one, such was the breadth of the landscape before me.

©Christine Montague photographs of Cape Dorset, Nunavut

©Christine Montague photographs of Cape Dorset, Nunavut

©Christine Montague Cape Dorset in the evening sunlight. 

©Christine Montague Cape Dorset in the evening sunlight. 

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-RCMP-pano

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-RCMP-pano

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-park-pano. 

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-park-pano. 

©christine-cape-cape-dorset-park-pano

©christine-cape-cape-dorset-park-pano

©Christine-Montague-rcmp-pano

©Christine-Montague-rcmp-pano

©Christine-Montague-Gazebo-outside-pano

©Christine-Montague-Gazebo-outside-pano

©Christine-Montague. Kinngait Studios, the famous print shop. Construction begins on the new cultural centre and studios the summer of 2017. 

©Christine-Montague. Kinngait Studios, the famous print shop. Construction begins on the new cultural centre and studios the summer of 2017. 

©Christine-Montague_Cape-Dorset-school-bus. Sadly, for the community, the red and blue high school seen on the left, burnt down. 

©Christine-Montague_Cape-Dorset-school-bus. Sadly, for the community, the red and blue high school seen on the left, burnt down. 

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-Black-Roads-white-water

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-Black-Roads-white-water

New Polar Bear Cub Painting Study 4

Sink/ Swim 3, A Polar Bear Cub Painting

Polar Bear Cub 3, a 6" x 12" oil painting study on canvas, depicts a polar bear cub mid-swim, beneath the water's surface.

The Sink/Swim Series

Sink/Swim3. Polar bear cub painting © Christine Montague www.ChristineMontague.com

Sink/Swim3. Polar bear cub painting © Christine Montague www.ChristineMontague.com

My polar bear Sink/Swim series of oil paintings offers commentry on the effect vanishing polar ice has on the survival of the polar bears. The delay in the formation of the sea ice, leaves the baby polar bear more vulnerable to attack by hungry male polar bears. The increased open water means the distance a mother polar bear must travel, polar bear cub(s) on back, before ice is found to rest on or hunt seal from,  increases the odds the polar bear bear cub(s), and even the mother, will make it safely ice top.

The sink or swim aspect can apply to the bigger picture of our planet as well. The decrease in the polar bear population is but one of the many consequences of increased global warming, and the resulting polar and glacial ice loss. Less ice means more dark water.

When polar caps melt, sea water rises. As a good part of the earth's population lives near the water's edge, well, we could all be swimming for it, couldn't we.

Anecdotal stories state that human babies will sometimes play as they drown, not realizing they are in danger.  With this chilling fact in mind, I wondered if polar bear cubs are aware they are in danger as they drown. I hope not.

Some may think of these polar bear cub paintings as "cute", not exactly a word a fine artist loves to hear. But, the fact is, it is difficult to paint escape the cute factor of a polar bear cub. I hope that the affection, admiration and concern I feel for these wonderful bears is evident, and that they evoke similar emotions in you, too. The thought that in the next 50 years then number of these magnificent polar bears may decline dramatically, is the furthest from polar bear cute I can imagine.

To sign up for my blog & newsletter, or for more info on my polar bear paintings or to buy a painting, please visit Christine Montague Polar Bear Art.

Here There Be Polar Bears

Polar Bear Goodness: a New Polar Bear Art Website & Art Blog at ChristineMontague.com

In case you are new to this art blog Camera & Canvas, I  am a visual artist who, until recently, created representational art i.e. realism oil paintings of figurative landscapescommissioned portraituregiant cat paintingscanoes, lakes& more.  After the polar bears were put on the animals "of concern" list, I painted the polar bear painting  With the Northern Lights in tribute.  I continued to have polar bears on the brain when shortly after that I created CRAM, a Polar Bear World for The Sketchbook Project. Increasingly, I found myself thinking about polar bear art, polar bear graphic novels,polar bear vacations...,you get the picture, all the while continuing with my portraiture practice & creating other representational art.

Fantasy sketch by Christine Monatgue www.ChristineMontague.com
Fantasy sketch by Christine Monatgue www.ChristineMontague.com

One Big, Giant, Scary, Polar Bear Step Forward

Onward into a polar bear world of my own!  Polar bear art, polar bear blog, and yes, and trips to Cape Dorset, Nunavut, the Canadian arctic,  to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, polar bear capital of the world, followed (but not at the same time!).

If you love art, polar bears, or think about climate change, I hope you will enjoy (or find some solace in) 

My website ChristineMontague.com is all about my  POLAR BEAR ART.

Myart blog? I hope you will visit www.christinemontague.com/blog

I have a new newsletter for the freshest painting off my easel, why I have painted it, art & polar bear news, art tips, Subscribe

One  thing is certain, in my part of the realm...Here there be polar bears. I hope that here there be you, too. 

Remembrance, The Response & The National War Memorial

(From Christine Montague Canvas and Camera Blog,  November 2014 )

In October 2014,  the sudden, violent, and unprovoked attack on two young army reservist soldiers standing ceremonial guard by The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of  The National War Memorial in Ottawa shocked Canadians.  That one of these soldiers, Corporal Nathan Cirillo of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's), was mortally wounded at the foot of this monument, was heartbreakingly poignant.

The National War Memorial  orThe Response was commissioned in response to Canadians' demand  for a national monument that would pay tribute to the tens of thousands killed in World War I.It was to honour the spirit of heroism, self-sacrifice, and all that was noble and great exemplified by the Canadians who served overseas.

©Christine Montague Fine Art Portrait oil painting of young boy by National War memorial, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

©Christine Montague Fine Art Portrait oil painting of young boy by National War memorial, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

In 1926, Vernon March (United Kingdom) won the competition to create this memorial with his vision of a granite and bronze cenotaph The Response. The Response commemorates the enormous response of the citizens of the young and struggling Canada to the call of a war in which sacrifice was on a scale previously unknown.

Armed conflict is deliberately not glorified inThe Response.  Instead, the monument's twenty-two bronze figures, clad in historically accurate uniforms representative of all the services involved,  push forth unto duty. They pass under a giant granite Arch with allegories of peace and freedom atop it.

Ironically, The Response was not unveiled until May 1939, less than 4 months before the start of World War 2.  It has since been rededicated to include those killed in World War 2 and the Korean War.  The dates of Canada's participation in the War in Afghanistan (2003 - 2013)  will also be added.

The Response is now the nation's preeminent war memorial. The attack on the soldiers that stood respectfully and unarmed before it on that recent October day, has tragically strengthened this symbolism. A Canadian soldier went forth and died in his call to duty as an army reservist. The response of Canadians to the events at our nation's heart included examples of  bravery, honour, and duty. But compassion was there, too.

The Remembrance Day ceremony at The National War Memorial is broadcast nationally. Like the granite and bronze the monument is made of, memories of the events that unfolded are hard, heavy and long-lasting.

At the November 11, 2014 Remembrance Day Ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa , the National War Memorial was rededicated to all those who died  and who will die in service to Canada. A constant reminder that peace and freedom come with great sacrifice. The very least those of us who don't serve can do is to remeber those who fought for us in the past,  support our present day veterans and pray for those of the future. 

There's a Bear Model in My Studio

As fascinating as it would be to actually have a polar bear in my artist studio to paint "live" from, I realize the "live" part probably wouldn't apply to one of us for long.

Polar bear portrait study 1.   ©Christine Montague. Polar bear oil paintings on canvas. 12" x 12". Contact Christine  here .

Polar bear portrait study 1. ©Christine Montague. Polar bear oil paintings on canvas. 12" x 12". Contact Christine here.

So to simulate this experience I brought up one of my photos of the wonderful Inukshuk (the adult male bear at the Toronto Zoo) on my laptop.  I positioned my laptop at a distance and height a human model would sit in front of the easel.  Imagining the model before me was 3D,  I blocked in the shapes, values and colours I observed on the blank canvas. There was nothing drawn up before hand.

Detail: Polar Bear Portrait 2  . (private collection). ©Christine Montague 12" x 12" polar bear oil painting. Please feel free to comment below or comments & inquiries are always welcome   here  .

Detail: Polar Bear Portrait 2. (private collection). ©Christine Montague 12" x 12" polar bear oil painting. Please feel free to comment below or comments & inquiries are always welcome here.

 

In this style of painting, the background is more than a backdrop of colour to hide the white canvas. The paint helps carve out  and define the outer edge of the head, helping it to stand out from the canvas. Only at the end of the portrait painting are the fine details, and pure blacks and whites added.

Of course, for me, whether the portrait subject is human or otherwise, the big reward is always when I get to finish the eyes. Thanks to the magic of oils, the polar bear eyes in these portrait paintings, as well as in my imagination, are very much alive.

Polar Bear Portrait Study 3.   ©Christine Montague (Please note that this image is slightly cropped. ) . For comments and questions about any of my art please   contact me.

Polar Bear Portrait Study 3. ©Christine Montague (Please note that this image is slightly cropped. ) . For comments and questions about any of my art please contact me.

Polar Bear Dreams

About Polar Bear Dreams

These polar bear oil paintings are part of the Polar Bear Dreams Series, a dreamlike, wistful, and spiritual tribute in oil to the mighty polar bear, whose threatened future always seems open to debate.

Polar Bear Dreams. On the Move. Oil Painting ©Christine Montague

Polar Bear Dreams. On the Move. Oil Painting ©Christine Montague

Symbols

In dream intrepretation, the symbolism held by a bear is independence, strength, death and renewal, and/or resurrection.

And, if that bear is a polar bear? Reawakening.  

I try to show the physical beauty and power of the bear in my paintings. The night sky, the aurora borealis (northern lights) , the use of color, and lack of detailed landscape show how this beautiful bear has a foot in our world, but may be edging closer to the spiritual one. Hopefully,  knowledge, awareness, and empathy, will ensure that the ursus maritimus remains firmly planted in this world.

The limited color pallette of Prussian (or Indigo) blue, white,  black, (and sometimes green ) creates the other-worldy mood, spirituality, and mystery.

Polar bears are actually not white, but we do see them that way. (Read the Polar Bears International article on their fur here).

The white in my polar bear paintings represents strength, intelligence, innocence, and hope.

Blue is the most popular colour. Looking at blue is proven to make one feel well, and is helpful to sufferers of SAD. The blue in these paintings is more than representation of the night sky. It symbolizes the earth, the spiritual, the unknown, and beauty, too.

When I paint the green of the northern lights, it is one of the colours of the aurora borealis, but also represents nature, fertility, life and balance. The colour reflects off the bear's fur, connecting it to all this colour represents.

And, as in many of my paintings, the concept of living life "in the moment" and of solitude that is not lonely is prevelent. But, longing lingers there, too.

In these paintings, the longing can be as simple as wanting these polar bears and their progeny to live a long. healthy life. 

I welcome your comments and inquiries. To see more polar bear art, or to make inquiries about my polar bear paintings (portraits, too), please feel free to comment below, or contact me  www.christinemontague.com

Happy Prognosticating Rodent, er, Groundhog Day!

Wiaton Willie Statue, Waiton Ontario Happy Ground Hog Day! That is, if you consider 6 more weeks of winter happy.

Earlier this morning, Wiarton Willie, the prognosticating (my new word for the day) groundhog, immortalized in the statue above, saw his shadow. So did Punxsutawney Phil. So, 6 more weeks of winter ahead for us!

Read more about what Wiarton Willie saw  here . And, for Punxsutawney Phil here .

The verb prognosticate, as you, unlike me,  probably know, means to foretell or prophesy. Prognosticating seems to be the word of the day in this year's articles about Wiarton Willie and Punxsutawney Phil. One source even makes reference to the prognosticating "rodent". "Happy Rodent Day" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Whatever the greeting, it's not hard to believe the prognostications made by our groundhog friends. Last night, the Greater Toronto Area received another huge snow fall - beautiful to behold,  but meant about an hour and a half of shovelling for us at our place.  

I  much prefer the warm breeze, blue sky, and summer sunshine I experienced the day I took the photograph above. "Wiarton Willie", a 4.5 tonnes limestone sculpture by Canadian sculptor, Dave Robinson, stands in a lovely Wiarton park ( www.visitwiarton.ca) at the base of the Bruce Penninsula. The water seen behind the sculpture is Georgian Bay.  The real Wiarton Willie lives nearby, in the library.

But, I prognosticate all this snow has an advantage, too.  It offers me a great excuse to stay inside, blog, and paint.  No procrastination allowed!

Happy, Creative, Ground Hog Day!

 

Shipping Art Internationally

Recently, I sold a  large oil painting to a client in the United Kingdom.  Shipping a large art work from Canada overseas was a first for me, and I came across a variety of helpful information about packaging and how to ship art internationally in my research. The artwork I wanted to ship was a 48" x 48" X 1.5 " oil painting on canvas on wood stretchers. It weighed 11 lb (pre-packaging).  I wanted the artwork to travel quickly (air freight vs  6 - 8 week journey by boat),  tracked, and insured at full value ( i.e. repaired if damaged, or full compensation if  lost).

To find international art shipping companies in my area (not all freight forwarders will ship art), I searched online as well as contacted the good folk at my municipal art gallery, and CARFAC Ontario, for recommendations (they kindly obliged).  It never hurts to ask fellow artists about who they use, too!

Companies that Ship Art

Although I made my inquiries just before New Year's, all companies got back to me soon after the holiday. I made my inquiries via email. I have since learned that for some art shippers, if very busy,  it may take two weeks for an email reply.

Here are the shipping companies I contacted:

UPS  For Canada http://www.ups.com/canada/engindex.html or ups.com  Although very helpful, my local UPS store would not insure the artwork for more than $1000. and payout would only occur if the painting was lost completely. This knocked them out of the running for me.

Fedex. or www.fedex.ca  or www.fedex.com Fedex has a handy chart for estimating cost of shipment.

NavisPack and Ship  http://www.gonavis.com

Museumpros  museumpros.com

Armstrong Fine Arts www.shipfineart.com

Pacart    www.pacart.ca

Here is a company that insures art (and artists' studios, too), for when you need separate insurance www.assurart.com CARFAC artists are eligible for a discount

Note: When I have a smaller painting to mail in Canada or to the U.S.A.,  I  have always had a good experience with Canada Post Express post. Quick, tracked, insured.

Heads Up on Shipping Costs

The quotes I received for the  48" x 48" oil painting to be crated, insured and shipped to Britain, ranged from $1500 - $2000. One company quoted $3000 just to Heathrow Airport, London.  Before I did my research, I had the vague understanding that shipping art is a costly venture, but I confess, the aforementioned quotes took me by surprise! So beware, when selling overseas, be sure to get a quote on shipping before giving an estimate to your client. The size of my painting, not so much the weight, placed it in the "harder to package and ship" higher price bracket.

Luckily, I was able to remove the painting off the stretcher, dissassemble the stretcher, and package sonotube within sonotube, which reduced shipping price substantially. This, however, leaves the clients having to reassemble it at the other end. It is helpful if you can find as much info online to aide them in this task. Also photograph the work as you take it apart showing folds, and bar positions . Include hardware, wire and picture hooks - anything to help them at the other end!

Make Two Copies of Invoice

Your shipping company can help you, but remember you'll need two copies of a commercial invoice (keep another for your records). One for the outside and one in with the art. These invoices should have

  • Date
  • Commercial Invoice
  • your name, address, phone, fax numbers, email
  • your business number
  • the consignee's name, address (postal code!), phone, fax and email and all other pertinent contact info
  • a photo of the artwork
  • Detailed info of the artwork. Title, Size, medium, weight
  • Value  of painting(overseas - does not include tax or shipping cost)
  • Weight and size of package will have to be adjusted if they are doing the packaging for you
  • Its use
  •  Declaration it is an original  _______ by living Canadian artist __________

Videos on Shipping Art

Here are some very informative videos on how to package art yourself.

FedEx how to safely package and ship art http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8zNtyAx8c4

Xanadu Gallery owner, Jason Horejs -  webinar on shipping art  http://www.xanadugallery.com/webinar/shipping/index.asp

Please keep in mind, if you are making your own crate to ship overseas, most companies have very stringent rules about wood. Crates must be made accordingly.

Here is The Canadian Conservation Institution page on crates http://www.cci-icc.gc.ca/caringfor-prendresoindes/articles/sixsteps-sixetapes/step6-etape6-eng.aspx

Good luck!

Polar Bears Found at Small Arms, Doors Open Mississauga

Polar bear digital art copyrigt Christine Montague. This Saturday, September 28, from 10 am - 4 pm, my portraits and polar bear oil paintings will be for show and sale at the Small Arms Inspection Building,  as part of Doors Open Mississauga 2013. The Small Arms Building is near and dear to my heart. Why?

The Small Arms Building is a 144,000 sq.ft example of WWII  industrial architecture. During the war,  over 40,000  women, "Rosie the Riveters", came from all over Canada to work at this site, where they manufactured  about 1 million Lee-Enfield rifles.

The Lakeview Legacy Foundation, of which I was proudly a founding member,  has set out to repurpose this impressive, but empty building into a desperately needed arts centre of working artists studios, performance space, art galleries, and museum. In other words, arms to arts. (Read more about it here)

And, to help you envision just how dynamic this centre will be when it houses studios for working visual artists, (and musicians, actors, dancers,  filmmakers, creative scientists, etc.) over 20 artists (including me)  will each set up shop in an office. We'll show our craft as if a working day in our studios, and offer work for sale.

But that's not all.

The Honorary Colonel Gerald Haddon will speak about J.A.D. McCurdy, the Canadian aviation pioneer.

Heather Brissenden will sing Hits of the Blitz from 10:00 to 14:00.

The Lorne Scots machine gun teams will compete through out the day.

The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion   will also be there.

You can see a Sherman tank.

And best of all, you will have the rare opportunity to meet some of the wonderful  Rosie the Riveters who actually worked at Small Arms.

http://www.smallarms.ca/SmallArms.html for contact info, schedule, & parking (it's free!). P.S. a very short walk west from Longbranch Go Station, Toronto.

Now, can you find the polar bear in the photos below?

Floors of Small Arms. Copyright Christine Montague. Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Polar bear hiding in the floors of small arms..

Happy Spring Tulips

Happy first day of spring, everyone. We may still have snow in the Toronto area, and it is cold, too, but I can feel hope in the air , can't you? Sending some tulips your way! Cheers! (or is that cheer up?) Tulips at the Williams Mill Visual Arts Centre. Copyright Christine Montague

Christine-Montague-tulips-Before-the-Light

Christine Montague Watering Can with Tulips

Christine-Montague-Tulips-Growing-out-of--her-head

 

New 905 Museums and Galleries

In an earlier post (here), I talked about the three E's of art: engage, entertain and educate. Below are some 905 ( Toronto Area) municipal art venues - museums and galleries - that do just that. In case you are unfamiliar with Toronto, (province of Ontario) it is Canada's  largest city. Head your car west along the edge of Lake Ontario and seamlessly you pass into 905 country (the area code), and Canada's 6th largest city, Mississauga. Continue on your trek  west, and you pass with little notice of division into Oakville, and then Burlington. North of Mississauga is Brampton, Canada 9th largest city, and west of it, is Georgetown (Halton Hills). Milton is sandwiched between Oakville and Halton Hills.

Two of the country's major cultural venues , the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) are in the Toronto downtown core. One would think this would be an advantage to all these cities joined at the hip to TO. In fact, many of us face the dilemma that these venues  are actually "near and yet so far". Yes, Toronto, on the google map is "near".  However,  inadequate intercity public transportation, traffic gridlock,  the high costs of  TO parking, venue admission, and time traveled, make these venues "so far".  And, lets face it, if you live in a city as large as Mississauga or Brampton, wouldn’t you expect to have exciting & educational cultural venues right in your own hometowns? Places where you could drop by for an impromptu visit with the family without saving for a month, and clearing the calendar?

Well, guess what! 2012 brought forth a whole slew of  art venues that are renew in energy or size, or just... new! And, there is much more to just looking at paintings on a wall to these places, not that I don't love doing just that. These are family friendly, inspirational,  educational, entertaining, engaging, thought-provoking places with a diverse choice of exhibitions, programming, events, and community collaboration. .

Now remember, in the big scheme of things, all these cities are very, very young, and so grand institutions as one might find in New York, have not had time to evolve. However, there is the new understanding that a cultural city is a healthy city, and that citizens, even if they don't attend cultural venues, like to know they are there, and miss them if they are gone. And, more importantly, each of these cities has their own cultural identities, and affordable accessible art venues are a great place to express, learn,  and celebrate this.

Ta da! Here they are -

Mississauga

The Art Gallery of Mississauga (The AGM). www.artgalleryofmississauga.com/

Outgoing AGM Curator Stuart Keeler and his accomplished AGM team have definitely upped the ante of this relatively small (by city size) municipal gallery. They are energetically committed to connect, engage and inspire the region’s citizens, as well as its’ visual artists.  Here's why it's well worth your while to check out the AGM -

  • Twitter chats. One is coming up Feb. 7th on juried art shows
  • The recent Lord Report recommends the gallery be a building of its own. (Was there a doubt?) Volunteer, be a docent, etc. Be at the grass-roots of exciting things to come!
  • Fee to enter – by donation. But join the gallery to receive a bundle of perks
  • Other notes? Just a door away from Celebration Square. Bring your skates.
  • Parking: Mississauga, all grown up, charges for parking everywhere (at last check $1/hour). However, there is underground parking at city hall, and metered parking on the street. Note: Unfortunately, you are taking your chances to get a ticket if you park in the neighboring Square One Mall.

Brampton

PAMA (Peel Heritage Art Gallery, Museum and Archives) www.pama.peelregion.ca

The former Peel Heritage Museum has always been an attractive, inviting venue.  My whole family has enjoyed visits to what was formerly Brampton’s city jail.  Recently, it reopened after two years of extensive (and stunning!) renovation and expansion. The photos in the link below will give a better idea of this remarkable new arts venue dedicated to art, history and education   http://www.pama.peelregion.ca/en/aboutpama/PhotoGallery_BuildingsAndGrounds.asp

Admission: Free for preschoolers, $1 for students. $1.50 for seniors and $2.50 for the rest

PAMA is located on the east side of Main St., ie. Highway 10 (Hurontario in Mississauga) and overlooks beautiful historic Gage Park with its unique skating paths (bring your skates here, too!). Metered street parking or in the Brampton Civic Centre, kitty corner to PAMA. A short walk north of PAMA brings you to the lovely Rose Theatre and Beaux-Arts Brampton Artist Co-operative and Gallery.

Kitchener

“M” TheMuseum www.themuseum.ca

TheMuseum opened to much fanfare in the fall.  AVATAR: The Exhibition  marked its Canadian première at M and it was the first stop on its North American tour. I haven’t been there yet, but since so many of the western GTA (Greater Toronto Area or 905) students go away universities and colleges in that area, I hope they are checking it out.

Oakville

Queen Elizabeth Community Centre and Cultural Centre Click Here

Oakville has reinvented this former high school as a community centre as well as a venue for many of  Oakville’s not-for-profit arts and culture groups. There are studios, and a gallery and corridor exhibition space. Bring your swim suit as it seems there's a pool, too. The Oakville Arts Council office is also located here. If you are a Halton artist ,you may want to join this supportive group.

Burlington

The Burlington Arts Centre www.thebac.ca

This dynamic arts centre is home to galleries, an impressive fine arts shop and art rental program, area guilds, mentorship programmes, and studios for working and learning. On Sunday afternoons there are often excellent free workshops and discussions for visual artists. This is a great place to visit, be engaged with, and shop for art.

Georgetown (Halton Hills) Here

Newly reopened after two years of expansion is the Halton Hills Cultural Centre, a theatre, gallery and library rolled into one. The gallery was once a church and the beautiful stained glass windows are still there. Formally, the gallery dedicated itself to supporting shows  by local artists, but a large art donation to the centre may have changed its mandate. See here http://www.theifp.ca/news/art-collection-worth-800k-donated-to-town/

Milton http://www.miltoncentreforthearts.ca/en/AboutYourCentre.asp

Opened in 2011, this state of the art facility is home to gallery and performance space and more. Here is the FAQ sheet for this centre of creativity. http://www.miltoncentreforthearts.ca/en/aboutyourcentre/resources/centre_for_the_arts_faqs_aug-10.pdf

Polar Bears in Orangeville

No danger though, the seven polar bears in question are the 8" x 8" polar bear portrait oil paintings I completed earlier this year. This is their first excursion out of my Williams Mill studio, and you can see them at the Dragonfly Arts on Broadway Gallery in Orangeville, Ontario. Joan Hope, the very personable gallery owner, and a great lover of original art, and supporter of Canadian art & Canadian artists, saw them online and asked that I bring them in. Done!

These Ursus maritimus portrait oil paintings, inspired by Inukshuk, the Toronto Zoo's male polar bear, are studies for future larger artworks. Thus I have priced them similarly to my little portrait painting series (here) . They are 8" x 8" gallery mount canvases,  framed in black floater frames, and are easily shipped.

If you would like to see these polar bear portraits in person or would like more information. Here is Dragonfly Arts contact information: 189 Broadway, Orangeville, ON L9W 1K2 (519) 941-5249 ‎ · dragonflyarts.ca

Here's the google map http://goo.gl/maps/fwP4

Well, I realize not quite like the remarkable story of the British Columbia man who can swim with the polar bears, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7rZTZBOrqQ&noredirect=1 but I hope you enjoy perusing these works online, or at Dragonfly Arts.

P.S. Orangeville has a delightful main street, Broadway, with Dragonfly Arts, home design shops, Orangeville Theatre, an art supply store and a myriad of restaurants for every taste.  Plenty of free parking, too. I can't tell you how great it is to find parking almost in front of the gallery so I can unload my work with ease!

Polar Bear Portrait 1. "Inukshuk" 8" x 8" oil painting copyright Christine Montague

Polar Bear 6 oil painting portrait. Copyright Christine Montague

Polar bear Portrait painting 7 copyright Christine Montague

And for a great story about encounters with a polar besr listen to cbc radios The Wild Side with Grant Lawrence. It's great. http://www.cbc.ca/thewildside/

For some great reading about polar bears in Canadian north, and the effect of changes in snow on reproduction, read this related article

Dogs, Fog, and Collateral

About four years ago, as I turned onto Mayfield Road in Halton Hills, the rumps  of two large dogs, trotting amicably along, appeared immediately before me in the thick fog. Luckily, for the dogs and me, I was driving slowly having just stopped at a light, and that my car's fog lights were doing their job.

Upon hearing the car,  the dogs, both German Shepard, one black, and the other brown and black, traversed  to the opposite shoulder. They never changed pace, or even looked back.  It was only as I snapped a photo, that the brown and black German Shepard,  in the lead,  gave me a glance.

Have you seen the movie Collateral ?  There is a scene where coyotes cross in front of the taxi that holds Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. It was my favorite scene in that film, and that is how I felt when these two dogs crossed my path in the thick of the fog.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago. It was overcast and had recently rained. Driving along 22nd side road, on my way out of the glen, I glimpsed two dark shapes emerge from the trees on the hillside to the marshy field below. My first hope, however unlikely, was that these were wolves. I excitedly turned the car around, and over to the side of the road.

Lo and behold, there they were, the same two dogs I had enjoyed photographing in the fog years before.  I fumbled to get my camera out of its bag, and still keep both eyes on the dogs.  They were on the go, when suddenly, these two "littlest hobos"  plunked themselves  down in a large, dark,  mucky puddle. These two must have need a cooling off, further proof, of just how eerily warm March is here in Southern Ontario.

Before I could snap a shot, up and away they went, into the woods, and out of sight.

Back in the studio,  I took another look at the old photo of them.   I knew the brown and black German Shepard had a collar, but that pixellated item around the black dog is a broken rope? Could they be feral? Lots of good rabbit eatin' here in the glen.

No matter, whether farm dog or feral, they seemed healthy, happy, and a team.

Dogs are usually not my thing, but I love the image of the black dog, his pale breath clear in the fog, and the contented freedom the pair represent.

I immediately started the drawing of the black Shepard in fog on a large canvas. But the Mill  "open studio" days, Friday and Saturday afternoons, are  in reality "clean hands days".   So contentedly I painted  the tidy  18" x 24" oil painting study above.

And the dogs? If they do have a home, and I hope they do, I am uncertain how content the owner will be with their muddy exploits.

Polar Bear Portrait Painting 7

Polar bear Portrait painting 7 copyright Christine Montague The seventh in the series of little polar bear portrait oil paintings joins the fifth and sixth portraits of polar bears in the moonlight. The Toronto Zoo's male polar bear “Inukshuk” is the model.

By painting these little portraits  I am familiarizing myself with the shape of the polar bear's head and the structure of his eyes, snout and ears.

The eyes , although intelligent, are so small, I have to ignore my natural inclination is to paint them larger.  I love painting his thick, rounded fuzzy ears - the only thing "teddy bear" about him. But I'm not fooled. In Portrait 8, which I also finished this week,  I painted Inukshuk's very  large teeth.

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Happy Ground Hog Day Art

Happy Groundhog Day! Good luck, Wiarton Willie & Punxsutawney Phil! We all have those paintings where we wonder what was I thinking? However, this groundhog has supplied me with a lot of fun in blogs and in the studio. And when it was in the studio, there were visitors who adored it, especially if they were from the Wiarton, Ontario  area. A bit of home.