Friday, 19 February 2021

25 Years in Canada

Blog 6

Mer Bleue in Winter, oil, 8" x 10

2009 was an exciting year in my art career with many firsts. In mid-February, I went plein air painting in winter for the first time. We put on our snowshoes and walked a short distance into the woods in St Pascal. I set my easel up to paint the view of snow-covered fields. I was unprepared for the occasion. The wind was heavy enough to blow my painting off the easel and onto my good winter jacket. Luckily, after I washed the jacket right after my return home, I was able to get rid of most of the oil stains. For the next outing to Mer Bleue, I picked an old construction coat that my dad had given me. It is the same coat I still wear more than ten years later.

I also went to a two-day Turner workshop with Andrea Mossop and was so excited about his use of light in his paintings. After the two days, I was exhausted but could hardly wait to incorporate what I had learned into my artworks.

Right after another successful vernissage at the Galerie de la Rive with more than120 visitors, I was on a high, even though I did not sell anything. At the same time, I also hung my first solo exhibition at the Blackburn Hamlet Library. I was proud of the show.

Last Signs of Snow, acrylic, 14" x 11"

At the end of March, a driver drove into my car and left me shaken and with whiplash. Luckily, the injury did not prevent me from going on my first painting trip to Petite Rouge. I could hardly believe that I had five days to paint with my friends and some of my former teachers. Every evening of the trip, I was exhausted. My eyes burned from the wind and the whole day of concentration on my surroundings. On the other hand, I was excited and motivated by the positive feedback. I met such friendly fellow painters during the trip and have such great memories of the Plein Air Ensemble painting trips over the years.

On April 25, 2009, a miracle saved our house. We had dinner when it suddenly got very windy. I decided to hurry up to finish my work outside. I was at the door when the lights in the hallway and the kitchen started to flicker. Immediately after, I heard a loud unfamiliar noise from the front of our property. I ran towards the sound and saw an enormous ball of fire at one of the hydro poles.

In full panic, I had just called 911 when we lost power. I was so scared that I had a hard time to give the dispatcher all the information. I instructed my children to take the dogs and get into one of the cars. My son did not consider that the dogs could be scared and did not put them on a leash. Alex almost ran off.

I grabbed my painting of Jessie, then tried to find the keys for our cars while looking for a flashlight. When I could find anything, I ripped all the keys from the holder together with another painting of Jessie and my precious teddy bear that travels with me everywhere. I managed to drive the cars to safety while my husband and a neighbour tried to keep the fire from the house with fire extinguishers.

The time until the first fire truck arrived seemed endless. The whole front of our property was on fire. It was a wall of fire that went from one electricity pole to the next. We were all shaking. Luckily, neighbours took my kids into their home.

Helpless and soaking wet from the rain, we had to watch as the fire trucks were standing by to wait for the hydro crew to turn off the power. I don’t know how long it took until the fire was out. Although the firewall was only a couple of meters from our house, the flames never jumped from the cedars to the mature row of trees.


Cumberland Mansion, acrylic, 16" x 20"

Instead of resting the next day, I had to finish a commission of a Cumberland mansion. After lots of struggles with the perspective, I was pleased with the final painting - and the buyer, too.

Liselotte Peters, acrylics, 10" x 14"

The next painting was a portrait of my husband’s grandmother. I still painted with the Blackburn Hamlet Group, even though my life was very hectic. The gallery required a lot of work, and I also continued to work at the daycare. I volunteered as the website mistress for the Ottawa Art Association and taught Sunday School. Plus, I took my children to all their sports and music activities and looked after our two dogs and the household. I was exhausted most of the time. 

Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies, acrylic, 16" x 20"

At the beginning of September, I joined some of my friends for a trip to Kamouraska. It was a good distraction from the worries about our dog, Candy. She was only four years old and had a tumor on one of her front pads, which grew fast. I drove together with my friend Janis. Both of us had joined the group for the first time.

I had such a great week that I registered right away for the following year. Every day, we left the house around 8:30 am and did not return until 5 pm. The trip was not without challenges. The weather was unpredictable. One day, I got quite frustrated due to the speed with which some of my friends were painting that I tensed up until I lost all the joy of painting. It was my friend Bill who reminded me of the beauty of being in nature painting with friends. He reminded me to stop comparing myself with anyone else.

After my return to Ottawa, I went back to the daycare in the mornings. I also started teaching German for the City of Ottawa one evening a week and worked as a skating attendant.

At the end of September, I took part in my first weekend show, the Canvas in Colours Show at the Richelieu Centre in Ottawa. It was a new experience that left me very disappointed as I did not sell anything.

Your Majesty, Ringo I, mixed media,  24" x 12"
In November, I participated in the Ottawa Art Association Members’ Award Show. I had felt good about my painting: “ Your Majesty, Ringo I” and was happy about all the positive feedback from fellow members. I had hoped to receive an Honourable Mention. I was disappointed when I received neither this nor the third or second prize. As I had not dared to dream about receiving the first prize, I was over the moon when the president announced my win. Only a couple of days later, a theatre visitor bought the painting.

On the other hand, I was frustrated about the lack of success in our gallery. While we had about 100 visitors at the last vernissage, people came mostly for food and drinks.

Then the big blow that put everything back in perspective. I received an email from one of my best friends in Germany. Her husband and daughter had a car accident. While her daughter survived, she lost her husband. In her mid-forties, she was suddenly a widow with two children and no other family around. I wished that I could have been with her.

Ginger, acrylic, 6" x 6"
Days later, I sold another dog portrait of Ginger, a little poodle. All in all, I sold seven paintings in 2009, which made me happy.

The year ended with a visit from my parents, who came three days after Christmas. It was the first and only time that they visited us close to the holidays.

I invite you to follow the next chapter of my story in two weeks.

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