pollen quest

A visit to the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens recently proved to be a real treat–my first honeybee sighting of 2015! The intrepid bees ventured out between downpours in search of nectar and pollen. This busy little worker was in the process of loading light yellow pollen onto her hind legs from a hybrid honeysuckle bush (lonicera purpursii).

lonicera-purpusii

In a different part of the Gardens, the scent of Sweet Box (Sarcococca) blossoms was intoxicating. Thought there’d be lots of bees there, but the skies darkened, the air became chilly as the sun disappeared behind the dense grey clouds. No bees, sadly.

I photographed my own Sarcococca ruscifolia plant, a small one, at home. No consolation for the disappointment at the Gardens, but a useful reference and resource for drawing, nontheless.  Here’s a close-up of the male flowers spilling creamy pollen over the leaves.

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The tiny amount of pollen provided me with the impetus to record this anther pollen color in a drawing, as part of my self-appointed work to explore and learn more about the plants that bees love. Dorothy Hodges (Pollen Loads of the Honeybee) lists 20 very early blooming plants and trees, but Sarcococca is not part of her record. So, although I could not use Hodges as a guide here, I started the pollen work with the Sarcococca.

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Detail of pollen drawing in encaustic

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Sarcococca ruscifolia 24″x 36″ graphite, soft pastel, encaustic on mylar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the project

I haven’t been very diligent in posting updates on the progress of my big project on bees, (entitled “not by chance alone”) for the most part because it is difficult to share the endless bouts of self-doubt, but also because the documentation that I have been doing (consistently) has produced iffy photos often taken under poor lighting conditions. Stitching together images of varying exposures is tedious.

.A couple of months ago, I decided that I really needed to lay the entire project out to see how the parts fit together and to give me a better idea how to proceed towards completion. It would be the first time I would see the entire project together.

My friend, the artist Elizabeth MacKenzie, helped me with the huge undertaking of putting together the 300 or so puzzle-like sheets that I had completed. I got permission to use the gym at my partner’s school (the administration and staff were very kind to allow me the freedom to do this). Sitting on the bleachers and working from a master diagram, Elizabeth would yell out the number and letter code of each sheet and give me directions where to lay a particular section. Here’s s shot of the “installation’ – it really does help to show the scale of the work.

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Elizabeth was also the official photographer for this session, so I am very grateful to her for the images, her GPS and puzzle-making skills (:-) and the wealth of knowledge and experience in art-making which she so generously shares with me!

We still weren’t able to get the complete piece in one shot without massive distortion, so here are sections of the work: this one is the left side.

july 3 Left Side

 

Here’s part of the left and the centre portion:

July 3 Centre and left side

 

 

And the right side:

July 3 Right Side Flora

 

What a day this was!

Forager Mandala at Creekside

Last Saturday was a super drawing day in Vancouver. Thank you to the DrawDown organizers, to Cyndy Chwelos, Gary Cho, and the Vancouver Parks Board for creating this event; to my student volunteers who helped to facilitate the art making at Creekside Community Centre, and most of all, to the wonderful, talented participants who created stunning designs for the mandala!

Even the weather cooperated (well, somewhat). We had some fantastic visitors to the  workshop – some very young participants indeed, everyone happy to try out the felts and stamps. There were bees and printing ink and flowers on the drawing paper, but also on hands and clothes and other places! Hey, whoever said you have to stick to paper only, eh?

The designs were very beautiful and each one unique!

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We almost managed to finish the entire 40-part mandala, just short a few pieces, but with the sign created by my student volunteers in place, the forager mandala looks super!

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Drawdown 2014

June 14th, 2014. Big day! 45 free drawing workshops happening all over the city of Vancouver. Fun for every member of the family. Come and join in. Absolutely no experience required.

I’ll be doing a workshop at Creekside Community Centre – a collaborative project with all of our art-loving participants, and hopefully 10,000 foraging bees!!!! (errrr, not real bees, art bees!!!!).

Drawdown-2014

 

progress

I haven’t been consistent in posting my progress on the large bee project, “not by chance alone.”  This is a new section that I have been working on recently. It incorporates one of the large “Flora/Melissa” images.

May-2014

 

 

 

And some close-ups of the smaller figures.  Final image, the paint-covered stamps piled up and ready for washing.

 

 

 

bee school

This past weekend, I attended beekeeping classes, given by master beekeeper Brian Campbell (Blessed Bee Apiaries).  The course was interesting, informative and engaging. Brian is an excellent instructor. He’s exceedingly knowledgeable, has a gentle and  respectful manner for his students and his charges (the bees), and he has a great sense of humour! A weekend well spent with theory and practice. We still have the practicum to look forward to, more first hand experience on handling honeybees!

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We even got to witness a new drone bee emerge out of its cell. Very cool indeed.IMG_0581




 

flora, in mid winter rain

“…but there

of summer heat and breeze,

each bee’s body

at its brilliant flower, lover-stunned,

strumming on fragrance, smitten.” (Carol Ann Duffy)

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Rain and bleak winter, but January is on its last legs. We await the promise, the new.

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progress

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I’m back to the bees, making a little progress daily, but running out of room quite literally. Here’s a new section that I’ve almost completed; it’s close to 24′ long, and of course, I can only put it together virtually since my studio wall is 12′. I’ve added a figure (about my height) to give an impression of the scale.

poet and bees

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I found a beautiful book of poetry by the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, called The Bees. Here’s one poem from that wonderful book. (I stole a phrase from this poem for my previous blog post, “shadowed busy heart.”)

Here are my bees,

brazen, blurs on paper,

besotted; buzzwords, dancing

their flawless, airy maps.

Been deep, my poet bees,

in the parts of flowers,

in daffodil, thistle, rose, even

the golden lotus; so glide,

gilded, glad, golden, thus—

wise— and know of us:

how your scent pervades

my shadowed, busy heart,

and honey is art.

opening night

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What a great evening it was! My thanks are due to the Roundhouse Community Center and especially to the  Arts Progammer and Curator, (and dear friend, gifted artist and educator) Cyndy Chwelos for her dedication and support of the arts, and her willingness to explore varied artistic practices.  I’m so glad that Cyndy included me in this exhibition! Thank you Cyndy for this opportunity. It takes a great deal of hard work and time to put together an interesting and engaging exhibition, especially one that includes so many artists and different artistic forms. From the initial stages of coming up with ideas for an exhibition, to seeking out artists, to making numerous studio visits, to writing plans, contracts; organizing workshops, making bookings, arranging for advertising, sorting out technical issues involved with installation, preparing for the opening night, overseeing the exhibition during the time the gallery is open, dealing with problems and issues over and over again; then taking care of de-installation — the amount of work it takes is immense, the orchestration complex. And what I see (as a participating artist) and what visitors to the gallery and workshops see, are the finished products–the beautiful exhibits, the smoothly running workshops, the buzzing opening nights.  We see none of the hard work that has gone into preparing an exhibition like this. So Cyndy, a big, full “Brava!” to you. (If however, you were to ask Cyndy about this, she would say that this is her passion, her work, her practice now!)

I also wish to add that without my friend, (eminent artist and art educator), Elizabeth MacKenzie, I would have been too afraid to participate with my bee project. Elizabeth is very generous with her time and her thoughtful insights are much appreciated. Thank you Elizabeth!

I want to thank the 4 young performers from UBC and Cap College who took up my invitation to interpret a 17th century madrigal for this opening night. The piece was written by the polymath, Charles Butler.  Butler was one of the first persons to recognize that the Queen bee was in fact female–and not male (the accepted patriarchal notion of the day). Butler wrote a book on bees and beekeeping called the “The Feminine Monarchie,” and for the 1623 edition, he added this madrigal which he himself composed to the glory of the Queen bee.