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“What brings a smile to your face?” I was asked this simple question the other day and here was my answer:

My grandchild!

The love of my life is two years old.

Câlin Mamie, huggies for Mamie

Everything about him makes me smile

His smarts, his sense of humour, his beauty, his energy

His ruff and tumble attitude

Everything about him!

I decided to write a book for him. It might take me a while but the story is fully written and I started on the 17 illustrations I planned.

Here are some of the first colored sketches for this project:

As a next step I will paint these that are all drawn on gessoed canvas paper.

Think about what makes you smile and see the effect it has on your mood.

Best to you!

Suzanne

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Connected by Suzanne Belair

Connected
©2018 Suzanne Bélair
Acrylic on canvas 30 X 30 in

My inspiration for this artwork was the coming spring

 

For this painting, I wanted lots of textures and to show the flow of energy between all the animal and plant worlds. Insects, fish and birds are connected. Doing the endangered birds paintings inspired me to complete the two loons I saw in the paint strokes of the background. There is a couple of loons that come to nest on our lake each summer and we get to witness the chicks being carried on their backs and their interaction all summer. They are majestic! I wanted to portray their return and their habitat, their lifeline and also their excitement at coming back here.

 

In the painting, a large butterfly is close by, they are looking at fish in the river below, and the plants they use for nesting are represented. They will soon mate and there is an explosion of leaves and joy at seeing summer on its way back, at witnessing life!

 

Because of its great public appeal, the Common Loon (Gavia immer)  is an iconic Canadian bird specie and one of the best studied birds in North America. Many organizations (non-governmental) are dedicated to conserving this species since they are widely-recognized symbols of northern wilderness and indicators of aquatic health. Both individual loons and the overall population seem resilient and able to tolerate landscape alterations, habitat disturbance, fishing practices and pollution, which is good news.

 

Loons are found throughout Canada, breeding on quiet, freshwater lakes of 5–50 hectares in size. They are an important top predator in lake ecosystems and their wail call is one of the most identifiable bird calls heard around lakes. It symbolizes wilderness and solitude.

 

When you hear the loon, you know summer has arrived.

 

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Invitation Art Exhibit

This is an invitation for the wonderful Spring exhibition from the Beaconsfield Artists Association which I am part of. The exhibit will take place at Centennial Hall, 288 Beaconsfield blvd in Beaconsfield. More than 50 artists are participating and we are partnering with AMCAL Family services.

AMCAL Family Services operates from a systemic, strengths-based, solution-focused theoretical orientation.

In all its programs, services, and staff training, the agency takes a holistic approach to its clients, and a multidisciplinary approach to collaborate with other professionals and community organizations.

AMCAL’s programs & services identify clear goals, employ parent-supportive practices, & develop strategies to promote positive change and healthier families.

To find out more about AMCAL, follow this Link

The vernissage takes place on Friday April 6th from 7PM to 9:30PM and the exhibit continues Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th  from 10am to 5 pm.

 

Hope to see you there !

 

Suzanne

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Yesterday, I had my creative writing workshop. I have been writing non-fiction for many years. I started this workshop a few years ago and it motivates me to write short fiction pieces as well now. The class is very interesting and useful if you manage to be alert for the full two hours.

 

The man who leads the workshop is quite special, having worked for over 30 years as an English teacher and writing throughout his life. He credits his supporting mother for going into this field. He claims she was always respectful of his interest in reading and writing from the time he was a child. His knowledge of the language and his attention to our reading are quite extraordinary, and his comments are always pertinent and on point.

 

Anyhow, he came up with a statement yesterday that took me out of my comfort zone: “When you get to be a certain age (over 60), you realize you are stuck in certain patterns and no matter what you try to do to change them, they always come back.” Hum!

 

Well, it might not have been said exactly this way but this is what I got from it. When I told him I found this very discouraging, he rephrased the statement talking about our patterns of writing but I think his thought ran a lot deeper than this.

 

Strangely enough, just that morning, I had been walking and pondering my own struggle with change specifically that of my moods and the sadness that sometimes engulfs me. And just that morning I was thinking back to my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and on, realizing how I had not changed that much over the years. My anxious core is still the same despite all my attempts to be less serious, more relaxed, less worried, to focus on the positive and forget the negative.

 

I am a perfectionist and no matter what I do to change this, I always go back to it and it has been so all my life. What happens when you are a perfectionist is you tend to focus on what can be improved instead of what is good.

 

I often say I have learned to live with this, to accept it, but whenever I manage a week of:  “I am letting go, I can do it, it’s all good”, I go back to rigidity with a vengeance, especially with myself. It is a constant internal battle for me.

 

This week, I spent some time working on a painting I started in 2016, a semi-abstract that is turning into a semi-realistic piece (Isn’t that the same?). For months, it leaned against the wall, staring at me, in creative limbo. I wanted to put a lot of textures and show the flow of energy with birds and flowers, a sort of large bouquet.

 

But once I started to paint it, I didn’t really like the concept. The painting is now going in another direction especially since I decided to include a large butterfly which I love. This often happens when there is a component missing at the planning stage and I decide to just start anyway and see where it goes. I like the element of surprise. Unfortunately I now think the butterfly will have to go…

 

Doing the endangered birds artworks inspired me to complete the two ducks I saw in the paint strokes. I decided they would be loons to bring strong contrast and because I love them. They are nowhere near finished and will end up being quite realistic. I do have hope it will eventually turn out beautiful. This piece is really exploratory and it is a long process.

 

As a side note, I saw a great demo last night with Alcohol Inks on Yupo, canvas and tile. It was quite inspiring to see the artist playing with the inks without focusing on a specific result. Liberating!

 

Finally, how is this all linked together? The demo last night gave me hope, hope that things CAN change and that I can relax and lose that perfectionist streak in painting as well as in life one day. So here I am sharing this unfinished work that is moving in one direction even if I am very unsatisfied with it for now. But it will get better.

 

You cannot lose hope that you can change or improve for this is what Life is all about. I get the pattern thing and I also agree with the fact that it is difficult to change permanently but I refuse to give up hope that we can better ourselves. After all, Life is about movement and impermanence, we are all “Works in Progress” so everything is possible!

 

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Forest confection by Suzanne Bélair

Forest confection
©2018 Suzanne Bélair
Acrylic & Inks on canvas 10 X 10 in

 

I am sharing this painting today to make a point about exploration when it comes to making art.

 

As artists we often feel we have to paint certain subjects or in a certain style expected by our viewers, buyers, galleries we deal with, etc. It is true that viewers come to expect a certain type of production from an artist. But we must be able to explore and break these boundaries in the studio.

 

I have been watching some friends that are now dabbling in faux stained glass and this inspired me to paint this small forest. I love working with inks and enjoyed making the lines and defining the areas.

 

I started with a textured background. I use the flexible paste by Liquitex to texture my canvas. This insures it won’t crack over time.

 

When you feel like painting something that is unexpected or new to you, go for it. Especially if you feel some anxiety at the start, you might think, “I could never paint this” or “If I do it, I’ll never show it to anyone”. Well, if you think this way, you must try it because it might turn out to be the key that unlocks your next series or the next step in your painting process.

 

This self-censoring we go through is what eventually leads to a creativity blockage. All the assumptions and self-judgements should be examined and questioned if we want to move forwards in our art.

 

We all get inspiration, our imagination sometimes sends us wild images that we often disregard as unimportant or not “fitting in” with the image we want to project of our art. It is in our best interest to follow these seemingly random suggestions we receive through intuition and imagination.

 

Life gives us a seed and our job is to make sure it grows. Artists often feel like they are carrying the “burden” of creation, that they are responsible for every stroke, for every decision regarding what goes on the canvas.

 

But it is not so, we need to relax about it because it you think you are responsible for everything, then the process of painting presents endless opportunities for mistake and your success or failure becomes your full responsibility. It is indeed a heavy burden to carry. Painting becomes stressful and aren’t we painting to enjoy ourselves?

 

When you take the attitude that you do “what needs to be done” because you’re following your intuition and this is where it wants you to go, you become free.

 

When you listen to the voice of intuition, you are listening to nature, to your own self and it is leading you ahead, always learning and living.

 

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Watching
©2018 Suzanne Bélair
Acrylic on canvas 8 X 8 in

Another week gone by and we are definitely getting closer to spring and summer! How great is that!!

In my last blog I mentioned that the group Artist for Conservation, which I am a part of, has decided to concentrate its effort in 2018 in bringing to light  endangered bird species, so we decided to get involved in our first international collaborative mural project. This installation will comprise the world’s 678 endangered species of birds and will be the artistic centerpiece of the 27th International Ornithological Congress to be held in Vancouver in August 2018.

This is the second species of birds I signed up to do: the Collared laughingthrush(Trochalopteron yersini), which is can be found only on the Da Lat plateau in Vietnam and is on the IUCN red list of endangered species since 2000.

It is a striking colourful bird that features a black hood with a silver ear patch and measures between 26 and 28 cm (10-11 inches). It had already been on the threatened and vulnerable species list since 1988.

There seems to be information missing when it comes to this bird’s habits. Flocks are small, comprising of only 4-8 individuals. It is a resident of “dense undergrowth of primary and evergreen forest, secondary growth and scrub bordering forest” according to IUCN, and occupies a narrow range for altitude (between 1,500 and 2,440 m).

The population has been declining due to habitat loss and degradation but there is a lack of survey in the area to help define the extent of it.

According to IUCN, there has been a government resettlement program that has greatly increased human pressure on the Da Lat plateau. Forest degradation and fragmentation have increased because of it, logging, shifting agriculture, fuel wood collection and charcoal production being the main culprits. In certain areas, all land below 1,500 m is now logged or under cultivation. Higher up, the broadleaf evergreen forest is being cleared for coffee plantations in the “Da Nhim Watershed Protection forest”.

There are conservation efforts underway in Chu Yang Sin and Bi Doup Nui Ba National Parks since 1986, but not nearly enough to ascertain the survival of this beautiful bird since there currently are no real protective measures.

Reference: http://www.iucnredlist.org

To find out more about Collared Laughingtrush click here

For more details on this mural project, click  here

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Banasura laughingtrush
©2018 Suzanne Bélair
Oil on canvas 8 X 8 in

Today I received the newsletter from David Suzuki.

 

Here we are complaining about our government but in this week’s budget, the government of Canada has demonstrated its commitment to the environment and doing something to protect endangered species and the planet and I am very proud of this.

 

They decided to invest $1.3 billion over the next five years to protect nature, provide financial investments for new parks, protected areas and science to make sure all of this is done properly.

Here are some of the budget highlights provided in the newsletter:

  • $1 billion over five years to make proposed changes to Canada’s environmental assessment laws.
  • An additional $172.6 million over three years to improve access to clean and safe drinking water on First Nations’ reserves.
  • $167.4 million over five years to better protect, preserve and recover endangered whale species in Canada.
  • $20 million over five years to assess the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change measures and identify best practices.
  • $22 million to renew the Sustainable Aquaculture Program for two years in support of an improved regulatory system. Renewal must include a focus on the environmental performance of Canada’s aquaculture sector.
  • Significant investments in scientific research.

 

This is here. In other parts of the world, we see decreased biodiversity everywhere we look. In order to bring highlight to endangered bird species, the group Artists For Conservation, to which I belong to, has decided to get involved in its first international collaborative mural project. As I mentioned in a previous blog , the installation which will comprise the world’s 678 endangered species of birds, will be  the artistic centerpiece of the 27th International Ornithological Congress to be held in Vancouver in August 2018. The original artwork will then go on an international tour to select cultural/scientific venues.

Here is one of the birds I signed up to do: the Banasura laughingthrush (Trochalopteron jerdoni) which is endemic to Southern India and is on the IUCN red list of threatened species since 2016.

 

Trochalopteron jerdoni is restricted to high elevations in the limited districts of Wayanad (Kerala) and Coorg (Karnataka). Although it can be found in several localities, the species is severely fragmented and has probably gone extinct at a few locations  according to a 2012 research by Praveen J. and Nameer. “The largest sub-population is found at Vellarimala-Chembra and this likely numbers a little more than 250 mature individuals”  (Praveen J. 2016). The population is estimated to be between 250 –2500 individuals divided in 2 to 5 sub-populations, but no recent assessment is available.

 

The main problem the species face is the large-scale conversion of forest into plantations, reservoirs, crops and human settlements. Commercial plantations of tea, Eucalyptus and Acacia have been increasing in area.

 

Since Banasura is thought to be a sedentary resident that inhabits dense undergrowth and moist, shady lower storey vegetation of evergreen and semi-evergreen forest, densely wooded ravines, hollows and forest edge, the fact that 47% of evergreen/semi-evergreen forest was lost in the Kerala portion of the Western Ghats between 1961 and 1988, while there were increases in plantation and deciduous forest is a major threat. The indiscriminate use of inorganic pesticides might also be affecting its survival.

 

To find out more about Banasura Laughingtrush click here

 

For more details on this mural project, click  here

 

To find out more about the David Suzuki Foundation: Go to: https://davidsuzuki.org/

 

Ref: Praveen J. and Nameer, P.O. 2012. Strophocincla Laughingthrushes of South India: a case for allopatric speciation and impact on their conservation. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 109: 46-52.

 

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