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For the last six years, there is an event that takes place in Montreal, called the Montreal Mural Festival. Since its creation in 2013, Montreal has become a world leader in public art and contemporary urban art.

 

The event celebrates the international urban movement. There is live art, live music, exhibitions and artists talks and the festival has become an important gathering of the artist community.

 

This cultural celebration takes place mainly around Saint-Laurent Boulevard which is Montreal’s main artery. This year, this 6th edition took place from June 7th to 17th.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go and visit during the festival but the art is outside and free for anyone to see and enjoy. There are now over 80 major works of art created by the participating artists of the Festival.

 

I thought I would share some of the photos I took today. Outside of the event’s schedule, I just found out there are some walking tours every Saturday and Sunday mornings.

The time I spent there today was truly inspiring because of the different styles, the quality of the works, the feel, impressions and messages they leave you with, the tremendous amount of details and intricacies. It was truly impressive and we probably saw only about 25% of the works. A good reason to go back!

 

If you are interested, there is a map here

 

For more information on the walking tours, click here

 

All photos ©Suzanne Bélair

 

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I have been travelling through Croatia for two weeks now, starting in Dubrovnik, on to Split, the Plitvice lakes and finally Zagreb where we arrived 4 days ago.

We have visited many museums all super interesting, and galleries, especially that of Ivan Mĕstrović, the most famed Croatian artist, set up in his summer house in Split and depicting his drawings and many of his sculptures. Entrance also gives you access to the Kaštelet, a small fortress that houses his works of religious theme on wood, they are set in the chapel that still celebrates mass every Sunday according to his wishes when he donated the property.

What I want to share today is a children’s exhibition set in the Grič tunnel, under the upper town of Zagreb, specifically the neighbourhood of Grič, also called Gradec or Gornji Grad. This tunnel was first built in 1943 for use as a WWII air-raid shelter and has not been used a lot since.

The central hall is connected by two passageways to Mesnička Street in the west and Stjepan Radić Street in the east, and four passageways extending to the south. In 1990 it was used again for hosting one of the first raves in Croatia, and also functioned as a shelter during the Croatian War of Independence. In 2016, the tunnel was opened to the public, serving as a tourist attraction and hosting cultural events. (ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gri%C4%8D_Tunnel_(Zagreb))

A few entrance ways:  

We were so lucky to find the entrance that is not easy to discover when you are walking and don’t have the specific address, and to find it was hosting the 22nd Children’s Garden of the City of Zagreb exhibition. Here are a few pictures of the event that finished on the day we visited.

I love the fact that this city puts emphasis on art at an early age. Back in the days, they made drawing classes compulsory for all. I don’t know if this is still the case, but you see children in museums and galleries a lot more than at home, and they are very interested in discovering art, asking questions and listening to answers, learning.

Art should get back into schools in a big way. It is an extremely important part of education and helps in developing a critical mind and an eye for beauty no matter its form. Creativity, improved motor skills and confidence, perseverance, focus, are a few of the benefits of learning and practicing art for children. It is an important part of their education that unfortunately is being increasingly ignored by our government here in Quebec and Canada.

I hope it changes one day and art finds its rightful place in our education system.

 

All photos and text ©Suzanne Bélair

 

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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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A little over ten years ago, in December 2007, I started this blog. My original intention is reflected in my tag line: This is a blog about art, the environment and the angst of life and creation. This has not changed since and I still hold the views I was presenting in 2007.

 

I am leaving on vacation for a few weeks and thought that instead of posting while away I will revisit some of my earlier posts.

 

I used to write a lot about the environment, climate change and air pollution. I also wrote a lot about painting, feelings and life.

Magnifique
©2009Suzanne Bélair
Oil on canvas 10 X 8 in

 

So here is the first post I would like to share with you. It was first published on June 5th 2008.

 

Reflection on painting

June 5, 2008 by Enviroart

 

Today, I am reflecting on the art, on the work of painting, on the world of painting. It is often difficult to get going and start a new painting. The famous blank canvas… Some say that if you put a coat of background color or rather an undercoat, you erase the stigma of the blank canvas. But this is not true. If it can be useful to judge the tone or unify the painting, it remains a blank canvas. The blank canvas might be yellow or brown or blue or white, it still represents a challenge. Will that first touch of paint, that very first brushstroke be right? Will the color show how my mind’s eye expects or sees it or will it be totally wrong and send me in a tailspin of wondering, of corrections and self-doubt, of inquiring and research?

 

True, there is technique and we can learn to mix colors. It is an art in itself to be able to do this properly and rapidly, but the best way to learn and reduce this anxiety of the first stroke is really to practice, practice, practice. Some days are better than others but all days spent painting, each minute, are a step on the path the painter wants to follow, meaning forward, learning, progressing.

 

Just like writers are told to write everyday no matter what comes out to exercise the writing muscle, painters, sculptors, artists must practice their craft everyday even if we can give it only half an hour. When you love painting, this anxiety is mixed with expectations and questions. Expectations, because you want this new painting to be better than the last one, to be truer, to expose you a little bit more. Are we just asking for people to understand us a little better? Difficult to say…  Questions, because you just don’t know how your painting will be received.

 

Unless you are a really experienced artist, that knows what his public wants, it is hard to judge how the painting will be received. This depends on so many different ideas and criteria, that vary according to the individual staring at the painting. When you offer a painting to an audience, you are trying to touch the onlooker. To go deep into his or her soul and somehow touch a part of them, light a switch, create a “Ah !”  moment before the analysis takes over. Before they wonder will this fit in my living room, in my dining room? Is this the right color?

 

I think we are looking for understanding, for people to peek into our heart and soul, to share something joyful we feel in our core, or sad in some cases. The only way to do this is to paint first and foremost for ourselves. I think this is the main difference between doing artwork and doing “decorative art” or “crafts”. Unless you create, you don’t normally see the difference. Actually a friend of mine said one day that decorative artists are only “good technicians” and I felt a bit insulted by this statement. But now I see the difference. It is true that decorative art is all about technique except for those that actually create patterns and designs. There is a bit of sharing when you pick the pattern you want to reproduce or paint. But is nowhere close to the opening of the soul that happens when you create from your core.

 

I am speaking for me but there is no emotion when I simply paint someone else’s design. There is the satisfaction of completing a project but none of the excitement, no skipping of the heartbeat, none of the quiet joy of just working at transferring your soul to the canvas.  In conclusion I would like to say that the main thing is to make ourselves happy with what we are painting. I don’t mean to be 100% satisfied with the finished product but to paint for ourselves, about things we like and appreciate. It is not about painting what is trendy now if we hate it (unless we are painting strictly to make money). There is so much talk about finding your style and being unique, but each of us is unique and it is by painting what you believe, what you are, what you like that your uniqueness comes out. We have to live with ourselves, we are the only constant in our life and painting first and foremost for this individual that inhabits our body is a good way to start. So paint what YOU like and do at least a little bit everyday.

 

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“Congratulations on being awarded Active Status with the Federation of Canadian Artists based on the evaluation of work recently submitted for jury. Congratulations!

You are now an Active member of the largest non-profit visual arts organization in British Columbia.”

I received this e-mail during the week before Christmas when activities were at a maximum, no time to read it before the Saturday after.

 

I am very excited to have made it as an active member of this prestigious association! This is opening new doors to be explored in 2018. The Federation of Canadian Artists has 2700 members across Canada.

 

A fun and worthy project I am getting involved in is the Silent Skies Collaborative Mural Project. This Artists For Conservation’s first international collaborative mural project will feature all 678 endangered species of birds of the world. The installation will be the artistic centerpiece of the 27th International Ornithological Congress that will take place in Vancouver from August 19th to 26th. The original artwork will then go on an international tour to select cultural/scientific venues.

 

I signed up to paint two species of birds: the Banasura laughingthrush (Trochalopteron jerdoni), endemic to Southern India and the Collared laughingthrush (Garrulax yersini), endemic to the Da Lat plateau in Vietnam. Both birds are endangered because of degradation and fragmentation of their habitat. All canvases will be sized 8 X 8 inches. For more details on this mural project, click   here

 

 

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After close to 8 weeks unwanted break due to convalescing from my foot operation I am back to basics: Black and White painting before putting in the color.

 

©2016 Suzanne Belair-unfinished- 10 X 10 in

©2016 Suzanne Belair-unfinished- 10 X 10 in

 

I had a good time today working on this small painting that I will complete in the next few days and might or might not be the base for a larger canvas.

 

Although I feel like a kid in a candy store and want to paint anything and everything at this point. So I don’t really know if I’ll complete that one just yet.  I also worked on an experimental watercolour today and sealed some wood for further paintings.

 

Nice to be back in my studio after all this time ! The message here is to keep on going and never give up despite what is thrown at you !

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