I learned some interesting things this week as I embarked on my newfound hobby, chasing the Aurora. First, it’s super hard to capture it, even if all the conditions are in your favour. You don’t know where or when it will show up; you can try to find the darkest sky, and it may not be dark enough, you must be super patient and Aurora Chasers have their own lingo.
When my son and photographer Graham, texted me the other night and said, “Pants on!”, I knew exactly what he meant. The Aurora was going to show up! Opposite to “Pants Off”, which means no Aurora, go to bed.
The conditions were perfect, the solar winds were strong, and the activity numbers were high. I got a phone call from a friend, and she was heading out to a destination not far from St. Albert, that we were told about by a famed Aurora chaser, who we met out at Big Lake. Graham and I decided to gather our gear and join her.
I must admit driving in the dark to destinations I’m not familiar with, and trying to find hard to find roads while being directionally challenged, is not my favourite thing to do, but my son has a keen eye and a good sense of direction, so he was able to spot my friend's car, and the road we needed to turn onto.
We hung out for a bit looking at the sky, listening to the geese we disturbed, but nothing happened. No brilliant green and purple lights, not even dull green and purple lights. Graham had to get up early for work and we figured it was a bust. We headed home. Not far from home I got message from another Aurora fan, and she said the aurora was out near Big Lake. After dropping my son off I headed out to see what I could find.
Big Lake is a popular spot these days for walking, biking, and photographing wildlife, but that night it was crowded with Aurora fans. The parking lot was almost full, but unfortunately, I arrived just a bit too late. It had fizzled out and all I saw were some dull green in the sky, but better than the last spot. Oh well, such is the way it goes in Aurora Chaser life. I headed home to unwind and eventually head to bed.
Aurora from the parking lot at Big Lake (Canon Photography)
I knew I should have gotten up earlier the next morning, but since the previous night was a bit later than usual, I got out of bed by 7:00 am, at least an hour or so later than my usual rising. I checked my Aurora app, and wouldn’t you know it, the activity numbers were high. I quickly got dressed and grabbed my cell phone and went out the front door. As I was standing on my driveway, sure enough, there it was! Maybe not as spectacular as it would have been if I was out somewhere darker, or if I was outside at 1:00 am when all the action had happened, but I could still see it and amazingly enough my cell phone could pick it up, even better than my eye.
Oct 4, 2021 - Aurora from my driveway - Iphone photography
I hadn’t planned on going to Big Lake that morning as I wanted to get busy painting, but seriously, the numbers were still high, even after 7:00 am and the sun wasn’t going to rise for over an hour; I figured I might as well give it a try. I grabbed my gear and headed out to Big Lake. When I got there, I could see a very faint green on the horizon in the northwest, what it was I wasn’t sure, but I had hope. It was still reasonably dark; I figured I could get to the observation deck and see what I could see. As I was walking towards the John Poole Boardwalk, I thought about putting my headlamp on so I could see what was ahead of me for the walk through the wetlands, especially since I notice some dark shapes ahead. At the opening of the boardwalk, I realized that one of the dark shapes I was seeing wasn’t a tree or something along those line. You guessed it! It was a moose, and I assumed it was a mama moose! I had seen a mom and her two babies the other day in the wetlands and thought it was probably the same ones. I didn’t want to take the long way around on the path and between the woods because, you know….it was dark, there were moose. I figured I would just wait them out, maybe they would hang out while the sun came up. Who cares about an Aurora when there were moose!!
Entrance to the John Poole Boardwalk in the Wetlands - Big Lake, predawn. See the moose? Iphone photography (making it lighter out than it actually was)
I waited and waited, fortunately, my cell phone takes photos even in low light, so I set it up on my tripod thinking, maybe, just maybe they would come my way, I was close enough to safety and the parking lot so I figured it was okay to stay. I was still assuming there was more than one. Nothing happened in what felt like forever, then the large moose moved off the path into the woods and a smaller one came up from behind and stopped, I knew it was the mama and babies, but I was stuck where I was. Just then three people came walking towards me from the parking lot, two guys I don’t know and a fellow photographer I had met out at Big Lake. I told them what was going on, the two strangers decided to keep going, my friend was going to take the path, he like me, had been charged by a moose before and wasn't interested in a repeat, but the strangers didn't seem to think it was a big deal and continued towards the opening to the boardwalk. Luckily, for them, the moose standing in the way ran into the woods; quickly after that a third moose crossed their threshold. Since the moose were out the way, both my friend and the strangers decided to carry on and go to the observation deck via the boardwalk, I decided to wait out sunrise and see if I could get some shots of the moose.
I went to the boardwalk to try to get a different vantage point to see if I could see the moose through the woods. I saw dark shapes but little else. Someone came from the parking lot and walked past the area I saw the shapes, I saw a moose head bob up and look in the direction of the walker, but quickly lower it's head to finish eating, I'm assuming. A few more people came from the parking lot, this time with dogs. Sure enough as they were walking on the path, the dogs started to bark, I waited but nothing happened, no screaming, or running, or such! I waited some more then decided to go back out on the path as the day was starting to brighten. As I walked towards the path, I saw a guy with a dog off his leash. I met up with him and he asked me if I saw the moose, I told him what I had been doing and I was waiting for it to get lighter, with the hope I might get a shot or two. He asked me if I wanted him to flush the moose out the woods for me, this sounded just a wee bit too crazy and I politely told him no thanks, he told me he hunted moose and knew how to do it safely, I could envision that “safe” herding of moose as they would probably come straight for me, heads down and hoofs ready to lay me flat. No, I said, that’s okay, I’ll just hang out and I’ll see what happens. Just as I was declining his crazy offer, the three moose came closer to the path, eventually coming right on to the path. We were a safe enough distance from them, and I didn’t feel like we were in any danger (okay, yes, naively I thought that before, but hey, I wasn’t alone, so it was much better and there were some shelters close by). The moose ignored us and started to eat along the path, the fellow and his dog left, and I stayed. I kept my safe distance and continued to take low light blurry photos with my telephoto lens. One of the youngsters came across the path and onto the open field I was standing in. He was still quite far away, so again, I felt safe (ish). They posed and ate and sauntered around for quite awhile, then they went back in the woods. I figured they were probably done with me and my camera for now, and I decided to go and check out the observation deck and see what the geese were up to.
Mama moose in the woods, babies in the field - Iphone photography
After spending some time photographing the Canada Geese taking off in flight for the day, and also capturing a few deer, I decided to go back to the moose encampment. The sun was up, and shirley I could get at least one crisp photo if they showed themselves again.
Big Lake - Canada Geese (telephoto photography)
Deer across the lake (telephoto photography)
I decided to be brave and walk along that scary path instead of going through the boardwalk. I don’t know why I felt braver now, after all that was the place I was charged by a youngster last spring. I figured I would stick to the open field if I saw or heard any moose like noises coming from the woods. As I was walking towards the area where I saw them disappear just a little while ago, I noticed some movement, I may have tore off into the field, but since there were no witnesses, let’s just say I walked calmly. I passed the area where I heard the movement and saw a sweet face of a baby (not so little) moose eating branches. I kept going and once again at a safe distance I was able to get lots of semi blurry and obscured photos with a few crisp ones mixed in the bunch.
Sweet baby in the woods (telephoto photography)
I walked a little further away and noticed more movement in the woods. I found a safe spot, close to the building and decided to wait and see what would happen. The next thing I knew both babies were coming out of the woods and eating branches along the side of the path. One kept looking up at me, the other didn’t seem to care. As I was taking the photos the inquisitive one decided to venture a little closer to me, which made me freak out just a little bit, and I backed up quickly. I was still a long way from the baby, but they can move fast. When I backed up, he lost interest and continued to eat, then he changed his mind and decided to come a little bit closer to me, I decided I had enough and walked closer to the building. Again, he lost interest in me and continue to eat, and then checked out what his sister was up to. They were so cute, and sweet, but could be dangerous, although it was such a special moment watching them, I remembered my previous experience, it had taught me a good lesson about keeping your distance. After a bit they went back into the woods, then something spooked them, and I could see them running towards mom.
Twins hanging out (telephoto photography)
I decided to go back to the boardwalk and see if I could make them out in the woods from the other side once again. No luck, but I did find my friend and another fellow I had seen out at the lake. He was an older gentleman, a photographer and artist, who especially loved birds and I met him many mornings on the boardwalk both of us cameras in hand. I told them about my moose photo opt and they wanted to go and see if they were still there. My friend and I followed along, and we all went out on the path, we didn't see the moose as they were still in the woods. The other fellow decided to go into the woods…….what…….that was crazy……there were moose in them woods. Before I could say anything, he was gone. My friend and I decided we needed to stay a safe distance away and went into the field. We waited for the other fellow to come back out of the woods; eventually he did. He said he found the mother and then went straight back in to take some photos. I had a feeling this wasn’t a good idea and waited to see what would happen. Would he get his photos or would he be running out of the woods with moose in tow? Anyway, I got my camera ready, just in case something interesting happened.
Nothing happened for a few minutes, but then sure enough, the fellow came running out of the woods and guess who was on his heels?! One of the youngsters! Yikes! I knew this was going to happen and all I could do was watch, the fellow stopped, and the moose went towards him; the fellow brought up his hands and clapped and yelled, the moose veered away from him and guess where the moose was running next! To me! He was coming straight at me…..what the heck! I wasn’t even close; I was in the field for Pete’s sake! I turned and started to move in the opposite direction and in the nick of time the moose turned and went behind me and eventually went back towards the path and into the woods. Whew! That was close and super crazy, and my heart was beating so fast.
Baby moose after she ran behind me (telephoto photography)
For a minute or two I thought all the excitement was over when suddenly, the moose came out of the woods again and ran straight towards the other fellow who was still standing in relatively the same place. Luckily, he was successful at scaring the moose off once again. This time the moose didn’t head for me, but went into the field, turned, and then ran in the direction of a jogger who was now in the field and away from the path. I wanted to yell for her to run, but it happened so fast, she stood still, and the moose just went past her and headed towards the path and went back into the woods.
Chasing the moose away (telephoto photography)
Moose running in direction of jogger (telephoto photography)
After all the excitement and near-death experiences (okay, maybe a little exaggeration there), my friend headed towards the boardwalk, which was the way the moose went, so I trailed behind, not sure if it was a good idea, but what the heck. Two moose were in the wetlands and a third ran in shortly after. The two babies met up and snuggled each others’ noses, and mom and the babies went off to continue their breakfast. Everything seemed okay, but I’m sure there was a lot of stress involved, I know I was spun up, I can only imagine how the moose felt. Then I saw the other fellow walk into the wetlands after the moose and all I could think was “Oh no, here we go again”, but nothing happened, he kept his distance.
Twins relieved to be reunited (telephoto photography)
What a morning! I was so relieved no one got hurt including the moose, but once again this is a good lesson to remember to keep your distance from moose. Whenever I am fortunate enough to come across a moose I try to keep my distance or to turn around if I run into one on a path. Its best to show them you are leaving, or get behind a tree, better yet, give them a wide berth. If you have a good telephoto lens that is the best way to get photos. They may seem like they are docile animals, I made that mistake last spring while taking photos and let one get too close to me. Most of the time they come across as being pretty calm, but that can be a façade, they can be super dangerous and it’s not worth the risk for a photograph. These young ones are still just trying to figure their world out, they are sometimes just curious about us, sometimes they may be a little aggressive, but as long as we give them the room, the outcome for both moose and people should be okay. The youngster we had the encounter with was probably a bit confused when she came out of the woods and saw us in the field, on retrospect, it probably wasn't the best place to stand.
So maybe there wasn’t Pants On regarding the Aurora when I got to Big Lake, but it sure was for seeing moose.
Previous photos of the John Poole Boardwalk and moose in the wetlands
Seven years ago, on a trip to Toronto I decided to spend a very hard day at the Toronto Zoo. My daughter and I were in Toronto while she was in a beauty pageant, I was there to support her and see her compete, but for most of the 10 days I was by myself. The second anniversary of my husband’s death was looming over me while we were there. On the anniversary day I decided to keep myself busy and spent the day at the Toronto Zoo.
My purpose to go to the zoo was to see the pandas, I had heard they were on loan from China, and this was a perfect opportunity to get some great photos and maybe even do an oil painting of them, but being a bit directly challenged I ended up getting lost at the zoo and couldn’t find the pandas, but even better, I found the polar bears. It was exciting to see three of them bobbing around in the water eating their lunch, but to be honest, watching a polar bear eat lettuce is only exciting for so long. I left their area and ventured out looking for those darn pandas.
I took in almost all the zoo that day, even finding the pandas, who were sound asleep, a little disappointing for sure, but there were lots of other interesting animals to check out. I found a sleeping cougar, a sleeping grizzly bear, a wide-awake giraffe, and lots of other animals in a various degree of wakefulness.
As the end of the day was approaching and I was ready to head back to the hotel, I had this weird sensation come over me. I can’t quite describe it; it was this intense desire to go back to the polar bear habitat, immediately. I started to walk in their direction which was on the other side of the zoo from where I was, a least I thought it was. I took a trolley car part way, walked a lot, and then started to run. Yes, run! I’m sure people wondered what this crazy woman with 30 pounds of camera equipment was doing running through the zoo. Okay, so I didn’t really run too far, but I was in a hurry!
When I came upon the Polar Bear habitat, I went directly down to the underground observation area where you could see them swimming under the water. I had butterflies in my stomach and a need to get to the window fast. I quickly approached, got my camera ready to take some great photos and looked through the thick glass, what did I see? Nothing, not a, nothing, no polar bears……I was the only person in the observation area, and I waited, nothing. I felt a tad bit foolish and decided I needed to leave when suddenly a polar bear dove into the pool and swam towards me. He stopped at the window and just stared, I stared back, and we locked eyes for what seemed like a long time. He then put his huge paw on the window, shoved off and swam to the other end of the pool. He got out and walked back to where he previously jumped in. Again, he dove into the pool and swam up to the window, again we locked eyes, he again pushed off the window and continued this routine. I was really enjoying the bond I was feeling with the polar bear when people started to enter the observation area. Reluctantly, I thought I should move back a bit and let others have a look. He did the routine a few more times as the people crowded around the windows, but never stopped and stared, just pushed off and swam back to the end of the pool.
When I was looking at the bear, I got chills and a feeling that my husband was close by, the other time this happened was when I swam with a turtle in Hawaii a few months after he died, but this was different. There was a different purpose behind this feeling, with the turtle I knew I needed to get back to the easel, with the polar bear I knew there was more to it than that, I just didn’t know what. One thing I knew is that I had to paint this bear immediately. As soon as I got back to the hotel, I took out the acrylic paints and small canvas I brought and started painting a small study. It took a few days to finish, but once it was done, I knew this was only the beginning and this painting needed to be big.
Getting Closer Study 2014
When I got back to St. Albert I bought a large canvas, 36” x 48” and started painting an oil painting of this beautiful bear. When I finished him, I decided to call him “Getting Closer” for several reasons, one was the obvious to me, he was getting closer to me physically at the zoo, but I also felt he was getting closer to my heart, there was something that had enter my life through that experience that I knew was going to make a difference in my life in some way. I also felt my husband closer; again, he was encouraging me and cheering me on, telling me to get busy and keep doing what I was doing, what I was meant to do.
I truly believe things happen for a reason and some of those things have a huge ripple effect in our lives, this has been one of those things. For the painting itself it has been a big success in so many ways, not only the joy it brought me to paint it and to share with others, but also for the attention and awards it has received. This painting, this experience has been the catapult for the start and the continuation of my series “The Polar Bear”, one that has been a huge success artistically but also spiritually.
I'm still not sure how this series will make it's impact, it's popular for sure and I am always thinking about the next painting. I do hope that it will be able to help bring notice to the polar bear, maybe in some small way help bring attention to their plight, in some way to make a difference.
Sometimes, I can't believe its only been seven years since I started the series. The painting has been in a number of shows, has won awards and hangs in my own collection.
36" x 48"
Oil on Canvas
NFS - Artist Collection
Are you a Seinfeld fan? I am, and Kramer was one of my favourite characters. Do you remember that episode where Kramer is forced to pose for a portrait? For one of my recent commissions I was asked to paint the subject of the painting as Kramer in that famous painting from the series. I thought it was a fun idea and one I was totally game for. I couldn't copy the actually painting, but I could use it as inspiration. I did my own photo shoot for the painting, I had lots of great shots to work from and what I created wasn't Kramer, but "The Ruz".
12" x 18"
Oil on Canvas - Sold
“He is a loathsome, offensive brute, yet I can’t look away.” taken from Seinfeld episode "The Kramer"
Being a professional artist can be a solitary profession, at least for me when I create the art it is. But I have never been alone in my art journey. I have had and continue to have wonderful people in my life who support me, cheer me on, help me up when I struggle, continue to motivate me and some who also help sell my art.
Ten years ago this past spring I put on my very first solo art show. It seems so long ago and so much has happened in my life and with my art since that day. My friend Sherri DeTonnancour had just opened a new spa, Heaven Essence Day Spa, with friend Holly Hayes. I had know Sherri for sometime and she has been a huge supporter of my art since I first started to paint in the fall of 2006. The ladies asked me if I would like to have an art show at their Grand Opening, I was totally on board. At the time I didn't have a clue as to how to put on a show; I had been in a few group shows, so how hard could it be?
The thing about having an art show is that you have to have stuff like walls or grids to hang your art on, I didn't have grids, I didn't even know what they were, as for walls, the show was to take place in the spa's upstairs mezzanine room, which had mostly half walls and a tall wall, which were freshly painted. We tried to think of how we could hang the art without wreaking the new wall but couldn't come up with anything great, but I knew just the person to ask. I went to Delta Art Supplies where I bought my paint and asked owner John Scott what I should do, or if he sold something I could use. John being John offered to lend me a bunch of grids and easels, he really saved the day and the show.
My family helped me get the word out, make signage, and Scott Hayes of the St. Albert Gazette wrote a great story about the show. We got the grids up and then realized we needed to back them with fabric. It's funny how we worked it all out and two years later when I joined the Night of Artists they used the same techniques. Once we had the grids and easels set up, I hung every painting I had painted, bought wine and some food, had a guest book, a prize giveaway and I was ready to sell.
The show took place over a Friday evening and all day Saturday. A lot of people came, some came from my guest list, some came from Sherri and Holly's, it was a great mix, they got some new clients and I got some new followers. I met a lot of people and it was my first art show that our Mayor at the time, Nolan Crouse attended. We had a mutual friend who I just happened to have painted so we had a lot to talk about. That was my first show he attended, but I'm pretty sure he attended almost every other one I was in during his time as mayor. He is a great supporter of the arts.
I will never forget that show, I will never forget how naïve I was about putting on a solo show, and I'm grateful for that, I didn't overthink anything and just kind of went with the flow.
Sherri and Holly have both been great supporters of my art, and me a supporter of their wonderful spa, they have hung my art since they opened the spa and have sold many pieces over the years. They are both gracious and kind and a lot of fun to be around.
I'm grateful for these two ladies, for their continuing support, their kindness and generosity. Just today, they sold another piece for me.
Last August I was contacted by a couple living in Victoria and asked if I would paint a sailboat painting for them, the very first award I won was with a sailboat painting, so I was totally on board.
Carol and Don asked me to do a painting that would be hung over their fireplace in their new condo. They knew what they wanted but did not have the exact painting in their head just yet. When we first started to talk about the commission, we talked about the size that would fit. Carol agreed to send me some photos to give me some idea of what they were thinking of. They also had a friend who took great sailboat photos and was willing to let me use them. I sent her some contracts, one for the commission, two for the photographers.
Over the course of a few months, we went back and forth regarding the composition of the painting, Carol must have sent me 30 photos, I did some of my own research on the internet and we finally came up with some ideas for the composition.
They wanted their favourite beach, Island View Beach in the foreground, sail boats racing or doing something in the middle ground and James Island and Mount Baker in the background. The background was easy, and I thought the foreground would be the same, but as it turns out there is much more to a sailboat racing painting than putting a sandy beach in. The boats must look like they are in deep ocean and not going to ram the beach, but if the boats are in deep ocean, they weren’t going to be very big in this composition, and the main focus would be on the boats. We tried a curved beach, a straight beach and then we thought a rocky beach that was raised, like Cattle Point on Island View Beach that would allow the boats to be closer to the foreground.
With the background and foreground figured out we then had to decide on the size of the sail boats and their positions. We went back and forth on that for quite awhile and decided on three boats. Two small boats and one larger one that would be ahead of the smaller ones. Between emails and facetime we finally agreed where the boats should be placed, sort of. I knew what they wanted, but composition wise it wasn’t working, so I decided to put the two small boats where we agreed and then I put the larger boat where I thought it would make the most sense. When they saw it, they were happy, and I started the monochromatic.
Carol and Don had specific requests about the colour of the painting, their living room had warm colours but didn’t have a lot of light. They had some excellent ideas of what the colours of the ocean and the sky should be, but not 100% sure about the boats and sails yet. They didn’t want too much blue in their painting, for me that was a challenge. The ocean, the sky, blue was in my head, but through the course of the evolution of the painting less blue emerged. The sky had clouds to help dampen the blue, but they also wanted sun reflecting off the water, so it couldn’t be a total cloudy day, and they wanted it to portray a windy day.
After I finished the monochromatic and starting the colour green was in my head, no blue, no blue, but green would work, nope didn’t work, then dark grey was in Carol and Don’s head, nope too dark, then Carol sent me some more photos, but this time the ocean colour was what she was looking for. I started adding more light grey, more blue (yikes), green, black, white, orange and yellow. The waves evolved over time, starting as slight waves to a more dramatic windy ocean with spray.
The rocks and driftwood were a lot of fun and I spent a great deal of time working out that part of the composition and got a little carried away with the vegetation, which ended up changing. The sail boats were the last thing I painted in and they were painted out a few times as the ocean was adjusted. The main sailboat was taken from a photo of a sailboat named Will of the Wisp, I kept the colours of the boat and the sail but did not put in every detail. The smallest boat changed colours a few times until Carol decided on the orange, good choice.
All in all, this was a super fun painting to do, I learned a lot about sailing and enjoyed Carol and Don’s input and suggestions. Because they live in Victoria everything was done through email, texts, phone and facetime. When the painting was done, we went over many frame samples and we found one they liked, and I framed and shipped the painting to them. The painting arrived safe and sound and their feedback was fabulous, they were very happy with the end result.
Finished Painting - Close Reach - 30" x 20", oil on canvas
Commissions are a joy and a privilege to paint. They are not always easy, and they do take time, this one from start of the sketch to the finished painting took 8 months. That doesn’t mean I worked on it 8 months straight, there were lag time between emails, there were a couple weeks I couldn’t paint on it. It’s my firm belief that the client needs to be happy with the end result. I may use some of my own artistic license, but it's always to the benefit of the painting and never to take away the vision of the client.
…When we approached Memory to do a seascape painting for us I don’t think we realized how much a part of the process we would become. Right from the start she made it clear that this was our painting, and that her goal was to make sure we were happy with it. She actively sought our input on every aspect. Her patience was remarkable with our indecision at times, as we switched gears and changing directions more than once. She shared her artist’s experience with us and offered expert insights based on her knowledge of art composition. She also genuinely seemed interested in learning about sailboats and sailing terms, and put up with a lot of our sailing jargon.
She was very professional in how she conducted the business end of things, which inspired our confidence in her and we felt we were in safe hands with her.
We really feel like we had a hand in creating this painting “Close Reach”, and are proud to have it hanging in our home.”
Carol Toal and Don McKay, Victoria, BC
In 2011, I painted this painting of my friend Kara and her two eldest boys, the youngest not being born yet. I was just starting out on my journey as an artist and I was drawn to portraits and wanted to paint as many as I could. I saw a photo Kara's husband had taken on Facebook and asked permission to paint it. I told them that I would let them have it sometime in the future. My goal was to show it in as many shows as I could, which is what I did. Over the last year Kara and I have talked about me sending it to her as I was finished showing it. I love this painting and have enjoyed having it in my home, but I knew it was time for it to go to Kara's home.
The painting arrived in Missouri yesterday and I was thrilled to know that Kara and her family love it and I was so happy for her to finally see it in person (photographs never do a painting justice).
Thank you Kara, Kyle, Drew and of course Michael for your photography skills, and my apologies to little Grayson who was not born yet when this painting was done, maybe there will be another painting in the future.
To see the story and progress of this painting go to my original blog www.memoryroth.blogspot.com - written on May 16, 2011
Let Me Sea
28" x 22"
Oil on Canvas
I’ve been taking photographs almost all my life. As an artist I use many of my photos in my paintings as reference and I am always on the lookout for subjects that become my art, but even if I wasn’t an artist, I would still be a photographer.
I went for a walk out to Big Lake yesterday, a local environmentally protected area just on the edge of my city. I have been going there since 2013 and always find such peace. It has gotten a lot busier since the first few years I would spend my evenings taking sunset photos, but it’s still one of my favourite places to go to.
As I was on my walk, I ran into a couple friends, said hello to numerous people I passed by, one fellow asked me if I saw the two moose, I had not. He told me where he saw them, and I said I would check it out. I carried onto the lake, took some photos of geese, and turned around to head back to the parking lot where the moose were spotted, or so I thought. As I was on my way, I saw that my friends were headed towards my direction. They asked me if I saw the two moose, I had not. As they tried to explain to me where they were, they said “come on, we will show you”. So off we went to check out the moose.
We came upon them in some dense bush just off the trail. I could barely make them out, but sure enough there were two brown shapes in the bush. We stood there for a bit, I changed my lens on my camera and then took a few photos. The photos weren’t going to be great, because they were too far away and too much bush between them and me, but I thought I’d hang around for a bit. My friends said their goodbyes and off they went.
I was a very calm and felt at peace standing there with my camera, hoping I could get a clear shot of one of the moose. The calf started to move closer to my location as he was eating the branches and bark off the trees. I was starting to feel hopeful that I would get a better shot. I got the feeling from watching him that he didn’t really seem to mind me being there, he was pretty much ignoring me. As he inched closer, just then a lady and her dog came around the corner and the moose changed its demeanor. He stopped eating and looked towards their direction, after a bit, he continued to eat, but there was something different about him. I should have clued in!
I told the lady there were a couple moose and I think they could smell her dog, she kept her distance and started taking pictures or video. I continued to take photos, but soon realized this guy wasn’t happy any longer. He stomped on the ground as if digging up something, but it was aggressive, his ears were flattened back and the hair on his back was up. Just as I was thinking maybe I should go, he walked back and forth in the bushes, now just a few strands of bush and about 15 ft between us. He looked back and forth and then all of a sudden, he came out of the bush and charged right straight towards me.
I was taken off guard and just tried to move out of the way, which I did. He stopped, I started to walk backwards, I wasn’t sure if I should have run or what to do. The lady asked me if I was okay, I said I was, then he charged again. This time I made a shhhhhing sound, I don’t know why, I guess I was trying to calm him. Then he turned his head, and I could see his mama coming out of the bush. I thought to myself “I’m in trouble now”. The calf was big, taller than me, but the mama was huge. I think it was enough of a distraction seeing his mama that I was able to turn around and start quickly walking the opposite direction, I don’t know what the lady and her dog did. As I was walking away, trying not to run, because I wasn’t sure if I should, two young women started walking towards me down the path, I told them they didn’t want to come this way, they saw why and quickly turned around.
I caught up with them and we started to walk back to Big Lake. I noticed a family with small children and tried to wave them to go the other direction, but they didn’t see me. As the moose emerged from the path, they had two choices of where to go, after us, or the other way across Ray Gibbon’s Drive, a busy road, one that I’m sure they have crossed many times. They chose the road, cars stopped for them as they crossed, and all was well.
In our excitement the young women and I talked for a couple minutes, and the couple with the young children were excited to see two moose. After saying goodbye, I left the two young women and walked back the way I came. I did not see the lady with the dog, but there were a lot of people on the paths.
When I came home, I looked up some information on what behaviors a moose will give when they are agitated, he was giving me all of them. I think the dog scent was a big factor, but I also know I got too close and I was too complacent. We see moose all the time in our city, I’ve seen them out at the White Spruce Forest, and I think I just forgot how dangerous these wild animals can be, I have a new found respect for the amount of space a photographer needs to give them.
I must admit I was pretty shaken up, and I definitely have had my fill of moose photos for a while.
In 2019, I was offered a solo show at the Northern Alberta Jubilee in Edmonton. The theme was going to be polar bears, but I knew I didn't have enough reference material and had to figure out how I was going to get some.
I had planned on taking in one of the Polar Bear Tours in Churchill, Manitoba, but the show was to take place in November through January, and the trips were offered in October, so that wasn't enough time to paint. Instead, I talked my son into coming with me to Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg had the biggest polar bear enclosure I knew of and housed 8 rescued polar bears.
I booked our flights and hotel and got in touch with the conservation officers at the zoo. Everything was arranged for the 3 day visit, including meeting the officers and seeing their research facility. The zoo works closely with Polar Bear International and is involved in the conservation of the Churchill area, including rescuing orphaned cubs.
We spent 3 days watching and photographing the polar bears. The enclosure "Journey to Churchill", is huge and a lot of time was spent walking from one viewing area to the next. There are a number of pools for the polar bears to play and cool off in and one large pool with an under ground viewing area. It was breath taking.
I was able to capture many great shots of the polar bears and have been incorporating them into my paintings. Submerged is the first underwater painting in the series taken from my time at the Winnipeg Zoo. It was a labour intensive painting that I truly enjoyed doing. I used a number of difference reference photos for the painting, but the bubbles gave me a bit of grief. I wasn't able to get them to make sense at first, I had them all over the place. I needed to figure out how to make them work. I love to swim, so on one of my trips to the local pool I did some experimenting. While underwater I brought my hand down hard on the water and watched how the bubbles rise, I did this over and over. Okay I admit, I did feel a little bit silly, and I did get a few strange looks, but hey, it's all for art! And it was a successful experiment.
The large scale painting (48" x 48") was completed and framed, and took centre stage at the show opening. It was a lot of fun to see so many of the patrons who attended the opening get their photo taken in front of the painting, it was even more fun when it sold a few days later to someone who attended the opening.
As I continue with my series "The Polar Bear", I am drawn to the polar bear underwater. My first painting "Getting Closer" was also an underwater painting and has done very well winning awards in shows and getting notice. There is just something that speaks to me when it comes to these wonderful animals. Not all my paintings are underwater, but after painting "Submerged" you can expect to see a few more.
Submerged is part of the Federation of Canadian Artists Online Juried Show "Water". I was very happy to see that the Federation Gallery is using it in their ad campaign for the show.
Do you have someone famous in the your family? Someone who has been in the movies? I can tell you that I do! Her name was Brandy and she was a beautiful Golden Retriever who was owned and trained by Pat Strang, a family member who lives in BC.
Brandy was one of 3 golden retrievers who played "Buddy" in the 5th movie in the Disney franchise "Air Bud: Spikes Back". When we first found out about Brandy's stardom my daughter was around 9 or 10 at the time and I tell you, we were sure excited. Pat sent my daughter an autographed photo of "Buddy" from the movie and it became a prized possession.
A few months back when covid first became part of our lives, my friend and co-producer of Mural Mosaics, Phil Alain asked me if I would be interested in participating in a new mural about man's best friend. After all, in this crazy world we live in right now, these wonderful 4 legged family members have brought so much comfort to so many of us, what a great idea to celebrate them.
This mural was going to be a bit different than the Mural the team usually does, rather than each painting becoming one large mural that is displayed somewhere, it would instead be turned into a print mural and the original paintings would be auctioned off. Also, this mural would be an international mural because he was inviting artists from all over the world to participate. Of course I was game and started to think about which pup I would draw. Of course my own lovely little dog Stella was top of my list, but then my good friend and artist extraordinaire, Jori Warren came up with a brilliant idea of painting celebrity dogs. She had one in mind, one that she was following on social media "Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund"; she just loved this little guy. I told her about Brandy being in the movie and she convinced me I should contact Pat. Luckily, Pat was game and sent me a bunch of photos. I couldn't use any that were actually from the movie since getting permission would have been difficult, but I was able to find one that spoke to me.
Painting Brandy was a joy and I spent many hours working on her. Part of the challenge with painting for the mural is that the painting has to fit into the mural in a particular way. We are first given a tile that has been painted with colours and values that we have to try to paint something that fits.
My tile (see right side) was shades of different colours but what was more important was the values, the dark mark along the right and the light along the side had to be there as they may represent lines in the mural. It's always a challenge and I enjoy to painting for Mural Mosaic.
Now that the painting is done and up for auction I invite everyone to have a look, check out the Mural Mosaic's website and also put a bid on the painting if you are interested.
I'm excited to be part of this, along with over 80 Canadian and international artists. What a joy to celebrate our best friends!
The Movie Star
8" x 8"
Oil on Metal
Starting Bid $150 US
Bid at: https://www.muralmosaic.com/product/130dog/
Auction closes on November 21, at 6:30 pm