Thursday, July 21, 2016


Yesterday, four of our group of five residents here at the Baer Art Center in Iceland went on a boat ride from the nearby village of Hofsos, northward, up the peninsula.

There is a beautiful headland or Cape that we can see from the residency. It's connected to both shores with long, low spits of land covered with stones, almost creating a lake, except for one small opening where the stones and land were washed away in a recent storm.

Our boat ride was to take us to the other side of the Cape. Although I had seen images of that other side on the website of Neal Rentoul, who is a photographer and was a resident here in 2013, I was totally unprepared for the power of the experience.

The water was calm, the weather was overcast. Perfect for floating so close to this enormous Cape and for taking photos. This entire side of the Cape is made up of basalt columns.

It was so breathtaking. I felt like screaming. I felt like being silent. Both at the same time.

I was in awe of such majesty.

I come away transformed. My heart soars.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Week 1 at Baer Art Center Residency

I'm settling into my residency at the Baer Art Center in Iceland. It's been nearly a week now and my eyes and mind are filled with many sights that are so different from the part of the world where I live (in the country outside of Toronto, Canada).

The residency is located on a farm near the town of Hofsos in Northern Iceland on the shores of a fiord called Skagafjordur. The owners breed Icelandic horses. One of the most exciting things our group of five residents has done, was to hike up into a nearby valley, after being dropped off part way up. We passed through a couple of cattle gates and across a small river to where the horses are allowed to run free for the summer. They were curious, and cautiously came toward us and surrounded us, allowing us to pat them.

Yesterday, we drove around the north part of the peninsula, through three tunnels, that connect formerly isolated towns. One of the tunnels was a one-way road, built in 1967, narrow and scary. The other two are newer, just completed in 2010. One of the tunnels is 4km long and the second is 7km. The traffic there was also one way, with travellers going south having the right of way. Travellers going north have to pull into one of the passing places inside the tunnels.  

We continued south to Akureyri, at the bottom of that fiord, where there is a small but wonderful Icelandic Folk and Outsider Art Museum.

Akureyri is a beautiful and hilly city, the second largest city in Iceland. It was a hot day for Iceland, and we strolled around the city center in shirtsleeves. After a dinner of Arctic Char we drove an hour and a half back to Baer, inland, along the #1 Highway through the Oxnadalur valley.


My work is slowly changing as I explore black and white acrylics, ink, pigment sticks and various other supplies I brought along with me.

I'm looking forward to what the next few weeks will bring.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Getting Ready to Go

Potential art supplies to pack

I'm wondering what to pack for my artist residency at the Baer Art Center in Iceland that's coming up in a week.

It's the art supplies that are the problem really. What do I pack? What will I work on? How can I know? Do I limit myself in advance? It won't be easy to get more art supplies once I'm there.

 It's not only the opportunity to travel that I'm looking forward to, but to be allowed an entire month to spend on my painting and my writing is a huge gift. I like the freedom an artist residency allows me, to explore new ideas, new ways of working.

"We travel, initially to lose ourselves and we travel next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate", says Pico Iyer in his essay, "Why We Travel". "Yet for me", he goes on to say, "the first great joy of travelling is simply the luxury of leaving all my beliefs and certainties at home, and seeing everything I thought I knew in a different light, and from a crooked angle."

Travel, with it's heightened levels of awareness, mindfulness, receptiveness, leaves us ready to be transformed.

Part of me wants to plan in advance what work I might do, and another part wants to be open to the experience of Iceland. It's difficult to choose what materials to take. I like the idea of working within some limitations. I had serious limitations placed on me after my recent eye surgery. I couldn't read for 2 weeks and for the first 3 weeks I had to hold my head up for 1/2 hr and then put my face down for 1/2 hr of every hour  to hold the gas bubble in place against my retina. I found that those limitations forced me to be creative in how I spent my time. 

Just as those medical limitations encouraged my creativity, I imagine that limiting myself to a certain size of paper or certain colours will encourage me to work in a different way on the residency.

Stephen Nachmanovitch, in his book, "Free Play, Improvisation in Life and Art", says, "Sometimes we damn limits, but without them art is not possible. They provide us with something to work with and against.  In practising our craft we surrender, to a great extent, to letting the materials dictate the design. Limits yield intensity.  Working within the limits of the medium forces us to change our own limits.  Improvisation is not breaking with forms and limitations just to be 'free', but using them as the very means of transcending ourselves."