Wednesday, August 16, 2017
We have an amazing group of friends in Nova Scotia who are more like family. Many hours were spent socializing by the sea in the warm sunshine.
The painting above was a card created for Birgit and John who were the wedding couple. They spend part of their time in Nelson, BC, skiing and enjoying the mountains. This summer they have been in Nova Scotia living in a boat house on the shore where they got married. I wanted to create an image that captured the mountains, sea and their love for each other.
In the next while I will post other paintings I created while we were on the East coast.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
We were spoiled by the family in Mexico. The hospitality, friendship and exposure to their culture was over the top. The image above is from the courtyard of the Chamber of Commerce in Tequila, Mexico. This is the birthplace of Tequila, and we had an incredible journey there.
This huge wall mural shows a goddess in the middle, with the agave plant above. From the agave plant and water comes life, music, recreation, families, birth and death. Expand the image, and take the time to really study this work of art.
On the journey 60 kms. NW of GDL ,we were soon surrounded by fields of blue agave. Once in Tequila, we boarded a bus that took us on a tour of 3 factories. The first one was Orendain, one of the largest distilleries in Mexico. I had never heard of this Tequila ( I am a Tequila fan) yet it is one of the largest producers of Tequila in the world.We first saw a huge pile of agave, some as big as medicine balls you balance on while working out. They can weigh from 10 to 40 kgms, and it takes 7-8 years before the agave plant can be harvested. (It takes around 5 kgms of agave to make one liter of Tequila)The workers had flat, sharp, shovel like tools they cut the leafy fronds off with. They then took sharp axes and cut the artichoke like balls into smaller pieces. This was then placed into huge ovens where the agave is cooked at a high temperature. We had a chance to taste the agave and it was not unlike cane sugar, hence its use for Tequila. Once the pods are heated they are then crushed in a huge machine. The juice from the agave travels in one direction and has water and yeast added to it, and the remaining fiber is gathered and stacked onto the back of large trucks. This fiber is recycled, used for floor mats, book covers etc.
The large vats of agave juice, water and yeast are then allowed to ferment. You can actually see bubbles popping off the surface of the vats as the fermentation process takes place. This liquid is then strained into large tanks and boiled at a high temperature. Our first taste of tequila was from a vat where the tequila is 55 proof! It is boiled again and again.......each time tested for its alcoholic content to get it to 40-45 proof.
The Tequila is then stored in steel or oak tanks, and there are many varieties of Tequila.
The first is Tequila Silver, or Blanco, Plato, White or Platinum. This is the Blue Agave spirit in its truest form. It is clear and typically unaged. It can be bottled directly after distillation, or stored in stainless steel tanks to settle for up to 4 weeks. It definitely has a true "Kick" to it.
Tequila Gold-Joven-Oro is typically a Mixto, where colorants and flavorings have been added prior to bottling. These "young and adulterated" Tequilas are less expensive and used in many bars and restaurants for mixed drinks.
Tequila Resposado is the first stage of 'rested and aged". The Tequila is aged in wood barrels or storage tanks between 2 and 11 months. The spirit takes on a golden hue and the taste becomes a good balance between the Agave and wood flavors. Many different types of wood barrels are used for aging, with the most common being American or French Oak.
Tequila Anejo (extra aged)
After aging at least one year, Tequila can then be classified as an "Anejo". The distillers are required to age Anejo Tequila in barrels that do not exceed 600 liters. This aging process darkens the Tequila to an Amber color, and the flavor can be smoother, richer and more complex.
Tequila Extra Anejo (ultra aged)
A new classification added in the summer of 2006, labelling any Tequila aged more than 3 years, an "Extra Anejo". The distillers must age the spirit in barrels or containers with a maximum capacity of 600 liters. The Tequila becomes much darker, more of a Mahogany color, and is so rich that it becomes difficult to distinguish it from other quality aged spirits. These Extra Anejo's are extremely smooth and complex.
On our tour we also tasted Tequila blended with either pineapple, coffee and other flavors. The goal of the industry is to expand its reach with Tequila with a variety of flavors.
As I write this, I am sipping on a Tequila blend of Anejo and coffee.
In the next few weeks I will add small paintings/pictures on my blog of our journey to Guadalajara.
Saturday, July 1, 2017
It is the end of the school year. My son just graduated from Grade 9, and after a summer of adventure will be entering Grade 10 in the Fall. He is going to Mexico for almost 3 weeks, to visit a friend he met who was an exchange student in Banff. We are all then going to Nova Scotia in August for a wedding and some East Coast time.
I remember Canada's 100th Birthday.......I was 13 then. I also remember the excitement of the end of school.....the adventures of summer laid out before us. At the end of Grade 3 I was promised a new bike. I still remember coming home and seeing this bright red bike with streamers coming off the handlebars. It was freedom having a bike. We lived closed to the Glenmore reservoir in Calgary...... there was lots of wilderness, long before the developers took hold. We would pack a lunch in our backpacks, peddle across 14th st. which was gravel, and venture out on the trails. Swimming, hiking, biking, hotdogs over a fire, we did it all. We had no cell phones, no distractions, just lots of time out doors with friends. This was a special time in my life, and it touched my soul deeply.
I now live in the mountains, and as an adult feel very lucky to have this life. Around me are bubbling brooks, towering peaks, lodgepole pine that sway in the wind, trembling aspen leaves and a chorus of bird song that fills the air. I am Canadian, and I appreciate that more and more each day as the challenges of the world get bigger and bigger.
This watercolor sketch was created years ago. I was sitting by a stream, across Slocan lake near New Denver, BC. I was on a watercolor course and we were trying to capture the bubbling stream as it danced and splashed over rocks, trees and branches. The wind was blowing softly, the air was heavy with the heat of the day and there was a booming down the lake. A storm was approaching and we needed to boat back to New Denver before the storm.
As I sit here typing this on a hot, sunny afternoon, there is booming down the valley. An approaching storm, some rain, then the freshness as the earth revels in its shower from the heavens.
Happy Birthday Canada
Monday, June 19, 2017
After looking at the painting I sign my name.........the signal that the work is completed.
We had our friends who we stayed with in France over for dinner a few days after I completed Samoen. We gave it to them as a sign of our appreciation for the time we spent with them in France.
I hope they enjoy the painting in their home as much as I enjoyed creating it. I miss France....we will be back again.
Watercolor on canvas
24" x 30"
Monday, June 5, 2017
There are many special places on this earth. I have my top five favourites of those I have been to. France is in the top 5 for sure.
Friday, May 26, 2017
After I painted the mountains, I began to work on the town...shades of Burnt Umber and Sienna for the rooftops, New Gamboge for the walls of the local apartments, and Paynes Gray for the road that winds thru the village.
What a great trip....what a fun painting to create.
Sunday, May 14, 2017
When we drove into this beautiful valley in the French Alps, this mountain village in Haute-Savoie resembled our home in Banff. Towering above the town is Les Criou, a beautiful mountain that resembles Mt. Rundle that flanks the town of Banff, Alberta where we live.
Every morning we would bike to the local baker to get fresh croissants and baguette. As we cycled back thru the narrow streets, the view in front of us was the local clock tower with Les Criou towering above. When they were back home our friends said that landscape was their favorite in Samoen....I promised myself I would paint that for them.
Fast forward nine months. Nancy said she had invited our friends over for dinner......a belated thank you for the great time in France. Time to do the painting! This is one of the larger pieces I have worked on....24" x 30".
I first penciled in an outline of the landscape, and once that was completed used a masking fluid to separate mountain from sky, roof tops from mountain. The goal is to keep colors from blending into each other and keep lines crisp. Once that was done, I blended a mixture of cobalt and cerulean blue for the sky. I wanted to create a feeling of clouds, so before the paint dried I dabbed the sky with kleenex, pulling off some color. Next I used a light layer of payne's grey for the mountain walls and the road winding thru the town. I put a layer of light vermilion green on the upper slopes of the mountain. Then, to replicate the trees up high, I dabbed bubble pack into phthalo green and pressed this onto the green slopes. My trees were done!
It's a very special journey with this painting. Each brush stroke takes me back to the fabulous trip we had in France. A special time together as a family and time with friends.
Next I will finish the mountains and work on the roof tops of the village.