Monday, September 26, 2016

Picturing the World

There is a way we have of viewing the world that is unique to each of us. We see through our own lenses.

Several people have commented lately on how similar my photos are to my paintings. Which influences the other? 

I think of some photos I took at the Baer Art Center artist residency in Iceland this past July. I was sitting on a grassy hill right on the edge of the fiord. My camera somehow ended up in the grass beside me and I happened to take a photo while it rested there. When I saw what I'd taken, I took about 80 more shots! The colours in the grasses were violet, pink, lavender, yellow and green. It was dizzying. I felt like I had opened a door into a wonderland, where the blades of grass were huge and indistinct. But most interestingly, they were transparent, overlapping each other.

Recently, I taught a Cold Wax and Oil painting workshop in Anchorage, Alaska. At the end of the workshop, a friend and I took a Glacier Cruise on Prince William Sound out of Whittier, south of Anchorage. At the end of the voyage, we came up close to Surprise Glacier, where I saw chunks of ice floating in the water, that our catamaran slid over. I looked down, saw the depth of the ice below the surface, the light in the dark water, and began taking photos.

Gathering Light 28   60x60"  Oil on canvas © 2015 Janice Mason Steeves

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."― Thoreau

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Yesterday I had the flight of a lifetime. Stan Steck is a pilot who lives in Anchorage, Alaska, where I'm teaching a 5-day painting workshop. Retired after flying many years for the National Park Service and now a pilot with K2 Aviation, he has his own single engine airplane, called a Maule. Stan offered to take me for a flight to see Denali (formerly called Mt. McKinley). The day was cloudless with brilliant sunshine and no wind. A perfect day for flying.

We drove over the marshland, lakes and tundra which cover the 250 miles of flatland between Anchorage and Denali. Rising to 20, 322 feet, Denali is the tallest mountain in North America. Stan ferries hundreds of rock climbers each year up to a base camp on Denali as well as offering flights to sightseers like me.

I was fairly nervous setting out, with the idea that we might circle this enormous mountain and land on a glacier!

The trip was beyond my wildest imaginings. We flew up glaciers and through what seemed impossibly narrow mountain passes.

We saw a thick glacier where ski planes had left their marks while delivering rock climbers to start their journeys. And we flew into all the nooks and crannies Stan knows intimately, while he reeled off the names of the peaks and passes and glaciers as we passed around and over them.  Climbing up to 12000 feet we crossed over a glacier, still 8000 ft below the top of Denali, to see the mountains that drop suddenly into a valley on the other side.

Two times this year, I've been awe-struck at the magnificence of this world. The first was seeing the configurations of the basalt columns on the far side of the Cape on Skagafjordur, where the Baer Art Center is located. Now this.

Each time, I heard Handel's Hallelujah Chorus in my mind.