02 December 2013


Since painting means so much to me, I wanted to make a big deal concerning my 25 years of painting (from the awkward but enthusiastic baby steps in the first few years to the full-blown intensity of recent years), and, inspired by Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee in 1977, I've been using that name to commemorate this, my own Silver Jubilee.

My celebrations took on various forms, but I started with a bit of history/reminiscing over on my own painting blog:

In Part One I recount the very first steps of my introduction to watercolour painting and the artists that inspired me to explore this strange but beatiful medium.

In Part Two I talk about my growing interest in portraiture and I shared a couple of my novice paintings as well as some of my more current portraits to show that I've made some progress over the years.

Part Three is about the year I decided to get more serious about getting a better understanding of watercolours by painting one picture per week (spoiler alert: I ended up painting 63 that year).

In Part Four I tell the story of my accidental initiation into painting in oils and the medium's lasting hold on me.

Taking place on Facebook and also mentioned in Part Five on my blog, I gave away five watercolour paintings at random –because you're supposed to give gifts for an anniversary, aren't you?

Scheduled to take place during this Jubilee, I did another painting marathon in November which, after last year's marathon, I didn't think I'd do something like that again, but after my 33 on 33 project this spring, I felt I still needed to learn more about Prince Edward County, so County 101 was conceived.

Five years ago I did a big watercolour to celebrate my 20th Anniversary, so, because I love painting so much, I wanted to paint one large picture (featuring the same model) to mark the occasion, which, at the time of this posting, is about 75% done (detail below). Working in oils this time, this one has an element from my very first watercolour back in 1988 but does not, unfortunately, have any of my matrix patterning anywhere...

Detail of currently-untitled
25th Anniversary painting
(in progress).

When that's finished later this week, I'll attend to the four new paintings of my Tourament of Shadows series which are prepped and ready for painting.

Will I take a break after that?

No –in fact, I plan on kicking it into a higher gear –there's a lot of painting still to be done!

10 November 2013

Coming Home

Our life at Small Pond is ruled by the seasons, with summer typically being the busiest time of year. But this fall things just haven’t slowed down. Our last big event at the farm was the Scarecrow Festival, and as soon as that was over I was packing my bags and heading to Toronto to work at Clay & Paper Theatre’s annual Night of Dread.
My friend and mentor David Anderson explains the Night of Dread
 proceedings to a group of volunteers
It was my seventh year working this spectacular community festival and parade that takes place in and around Dufferin Grove Park. I’ve come to accept my yearly presence at Night of Dread as a given; a few years back I didn’t attend and I felt a gaping hole in my heart. I now understand that it is an important rite for me to come and be with my people at this time of year, and to be a part of this work that I am so deeply connected to. 
Some of the giant puppets used for Night of Dread
After a whirl-wind week of prep and a soggy set-up, the event went off despite the rainy odds, and a beautiful, magical time was had by all. I helped pack up the puppets the following day, and it was back to County for the next event… The Picton Zombie Walk!

This is Small Pond's third year of partnering with the County of Prince Edward Public Library to present the Zombie Walk. The funny thing is, I think that our Zombie walk isn't really about zombies at all - what it is about is fun, creativity, and supporting the great community-building work that our library does.

I’d barely washed off my zombie make-up and I was on the road again – this time heading to Pikangikum in Northern Ontario as a volunteer artist with ArtsCan Circle.

It was my second trip to this fly-in Ojibway community, and I was travelling with two other wonderful artists, Raven Murphy and Kenneth ‘Magoo’ McGregor. Our theme for the week was turtles. If you look at the shell of any turtle in North America you will find that it has thirteen plates, surrounded by twenty-eight smaller plates. For First Nations people, the turtle’s shell was the original calendar – the larger plates representing their thirteen moons, and each moon containing 28 days (I’ll save you the math – that’s 364 days). Of course many First Nations also call North America Turtle Island, so the turtle is an animal totem loaded with meaning and symbolism.

The first part of our project was creating a giant papier-mâché turtle. Because our time in Pikangikum was so limited, I brought the sculpture – made from cardboard and foam – in pieces in my suitcase. It really wasn't much to look at...

Upon arrival, I taped it together with masking tape.

Some high school students helped me papier-mâché it.

The following day, some more teens jumped in to help paint the turtle.

But the main part of the students' task was to each create a design for one of the thirteen moons which they would paint on turtle’s back.

It turned out pretty great! It's now hanging in the art room at Eenchokay Birchstick School.

Our second project was working with another group of teens to create six short videos based on these same moons. Students worked in teams of two to four, each creating a two-minute video. Once they’d presented us with some sort of plan, we gave each team a video camera and let them go to it. I was so happy with what we got back – creative footage full of handmade touches, with a few giggles thrown in to the soundtrack for good measure… having fun is an important part of the creative process!

Gorgeous handmade title for one of the videos
Before we knew it, the week was over, and we hopped back on our teeny-tiny airplane that made five (!!!) stops before landing at Toronto’s Pearson Airport. It's amazing the difference of perspective a few days away can give you. Walking through the airport was a shock to my senses. Everything was so shiny and expensive and fast. It all just seemed so excessive. The chasm between the haves and the have-nots of this country is so vast that it’s hard to accept or comprehend. Pikangikum is a town of 2300+ and is not hooked up to the electrical grid; the whole town is run on generators. As we were leaving, there was talk of the power being shut down for four days - an unpleasant situation as winter was settling in, not to mention the fact that school would be cancelled as long as the power was out. Most households in Pikangikum have no running water. Come on, Canada: you can do better.

I really cherished this trip to Pikangikum and I’m eager to go back to continue building on the relationships I’ve started there. The rest of Canada needs to hear the voices of these people, especially the youth, and anything I can do to help encourage those voices to speak up is certainly worth pursuing. 

Lake Pikangikum
But for now I’m happy to be home, and am feeling big time gratitude for the experiences that I've had, the life that I live, and for the place that I get to come home to.

16 October 2013

Scarecrows in the County

Last weekend we hosted our third annual Scarecrow Festival. We always hold this event on the weekend of Canadian Thanksgiving because it is such a fun activity for people spending time with their families.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous, sunny and warm, with brilliant fall colours all around us.

When people arrive at the farm they are provided with a cross-shaped wooden frame on which to make their scarecrow. We give them a little bit of instruction, and send them to the barn so they can rummage through mountains of clothes to dress their scarecrows.

Then they head back outside to dress and stuff their creations.

Before long, some wonderful characters start to emerge...

... Such as "Eunice", who apparently "works in HR"...

 And this dentally-challenged chap who, er, likes to get high...

Sure, there are your shifty types...

...And your basically beautiful big families...

...And all kids just look insanely cute against a background of straw...

...And then there's some families who just love their kids so much that even their scarecrows have to have babies!

All of the proceeds of this year's festival are going to Puppets Without Borders; a project that will be taking me and Susanne Larner back to Ghana in February 2014, bringing puppetry and art supplies to kids in rural villages.

Me and Brie, rocking the donation box
This Thanksgiving we were super-duper thankful for all of our friends and supporters who helped make this year's Scarecrow Festival such a success: Sandra Henderson, Brie Kaduc-Stojsic, Terry Veevers, Nell Casson, Kelly Roblin, Andy Sheath, Georgia Larner, George Emlaw, Picton Metro, Picton Home Hardware, and City Revival. 

See you next Thanksgiving!

11 September 2013

The Artists' Trail

There is a path in our woods. We call it the Artists' Trail. 

Visiting artists and guests are invited to create a piece of art and leave it on the trail, and everyone is welcome to explore it.

It's hard to resist the call of a path cut through the trees.

Let me show you a few things along the trail. DUCK!

It's a bone mobile. Most people run into it.

We maintain the path, but let nature entangle itself with the artwork.

Wind and water take their toll on every piece in one way or another. This carving by Peter Paylor was a light golden colour when we installed it:

 Many have left their mark here.

And their bright ideas...

There are love letters...


And a sculpture that you shake to make a wish...

If your wish *happens* to be finding a place to create a sculpture in nature, then you are in luck!

When you reach the end of the trail, there is a view so beautiful we can't show it to you here...

You'll just have to come and see it for yourself.

The public is welcome to explore our trails; just check in at the gallery so we know you're out there!

06 September 2013

Sweet, Sweet Summer

As our fourth summer at the farm draws to a close, here's a look back at what we've been up to over the last few months. It's been the best kind of whirlwind, full of art, guests, gardening and creative work of all sorts!

Find your happy place.
In June Milé completed his latest epic painting project, 33 on 33, which took him from one end of the County to the other, plein air painting this beautiful place. The paintings were exhibited at Blizzmax Gallery.

Meanwhile Krista was plotting her cardboard revolution and brought Cardboardia to Skeleton Park Arts Festival in Kingston.

July brought more residents from near and far.

Australian artist Della Jackson works on some paintings in the Art Barn.
In August, the Bicycle Music Festival rolled into town to perform a pedal-powered concert at the farm. Local musician D'Ari Lisle of Nine Mile wrapped up the concert with singing and playing guitar while pedaling to generate all the electricity needed to power his own amplification. Well done, D'Ari!

After the concert, we did a little 'silo session' recording with Jessica Moore, Abigail Lapell and Dana Sipos:

August also brought us a house full of puppeteers working on our program Shadow Puppetry Plays for Grown-Ups. It's always so great to have this crew here, they are such a fun and talented bunch.

Rick Zimmerman as Professor Murk in The History of Shadows
Guy Doucette and Kat Letwin as Him and Her in Almost
Cast and crew (L to R): Krista Dalby, Craig Morrison, Susanne Larner,
Brie Kaduc-Stojsic, Guy Doucette, Kat Letwin, Rick Zimmerman. 
We had many, many more guests and resident artists, including painters, puppeteers, musicians and playwrights. 
Paul Densmore does some early morning plein-air drawing near the silo.
Our last guests of the season were our dear friends Tamara and David, who enjoyed a mini-vacation camping out in the clearing. David Anderson is a long-time collaborator and co-conspirator, and was a great mentor to me during the four years I worked beside him at Clay & Paper Theatre. By special request, he played some music in our silo as part of our ongoing 'silo sessions.' I just love this song!

What a sweet end to a most memorable summer!

19 July 2013

A Very Small Pond Wedding

This is my sister Meagan and her new husband Tim. Aren’t they a couple of cutie-pies?
Tim Nikita and Meagan Dalby, pic by Shutterbird Photography
I first met Tim a few years ago when Meagan brought him out to Small Pond on his 30th birthday. Tim was kind of quiet, but I liked him right away, and it was pretty obvious how Meagan felt about him. Over the last few years they've spent a lot of time at the farm; they love Prince Edward County and live just a few hours away in Ottawa. Meagan called me after they got engaged, and we talked about the possibility of them getting married at Small Pond. It had become a very special place for them, and after organizing countless festivals and theatrical productions, I’m pretty unfazed by putting on huge events. Thus was the beginning of their picture-perfect country wedding.

In the days prior, there was much, much crafting:

And deliveries of beer:

I loved watching the big top go up:

 Thankfully we had lots of friends and family around to pitch in getting ready for the big day..

And there was yoga class to ensure things didn't become too much of a circus:

The day arrived and the weather was gorgeous. After bridal party preparations at The Manse, we headed back to Small Pond. Handmade touches were everywhere, including the bride's bouquet made by my sister Brittany:
Kelly Taylor Photography
My niece Brooklynn was the flower girl. Shiny as a new penny, she carried the rings in a bird's nest.

Kelly Taylor Photography
There was a little live music to help set the mood:

Adam Fogo and Tara Porter, Kelly Taylor Photography
Our father and mother walked Meagan up the aisle... er... grass path...

Kelly Taylor Photography
The ceremony was brief and beautiful, and took place in the clearing, in front of Trudy, a 1967 vintage trailer...
Just married! Kelly Taylor Photography
Kelly Taylor Photography
Our silo banner this year was made by my other sister Caitlin, and the theme of locks and keys with hearts was found throughout the decor...

Kelly Taylor Photography
Meagan LOVES a pinata, so of course we had one of those:

Kelly Taylor Photography
We wiled away the evening under the tent, with a great meal, much dancing and laughter, and the loveliest bartender - our resident artist from Australia, Georga Ryan!

Kelly Taylor Photography
Milé was an incredible MC, with good jokes and his characteristic charm:

Kelly Taylor Photography

And there was food, food, food...
Amazing desserts made with love by Tim's mom
Kelly Taylor Photography
It couldn't have been a more perfect wedding. We were so happy to help make Meg and Tim's day such a special one.
Kelly Taylor Photography
If you're looking for a unique venue for a country wedding or creative event, let's talk! Get in touch at info(at)smallpondarts.ca