Tag Archives: Studio



Skunk Tracks to the Studio

“Skunk Tracks to the Studio” Phone Photo DS

I was like Martha today, concerns filled my mind (MarthaMartha, you are worried and distracted by many things… Book of Luke). Snow was piled deep on the stairs. I did not go out on this Sunday, as is my habit. I knitted, listened to a podcast from Loyola Press and had a long bath perfumed with Emozione.

I dressed in my white paint-soiled fleece and jeans although I would not venture over to the studio. Skunk paw prints tracked over the melting patio snow disappearing under the building. We had called a truce for now.

I prayed. I breathed. I wanted to work but was tired on this Sabbath day. Run-off gurgled in the drainpipes. I could see the wind blowing the tops of the fir trees.

As I thought about sitting in the sunny window in the moss green chair from Germany, I picked up a forgotten copy of “The House by the Sea”, May Sarton’s journal. This is her entry for January 19th, 1976:

“It’s been a hard week, bitterly cold again. Yesterday was ten below zero, today, eight below, and even the brilliant sunshine feels cold as it shines off ice underfoot and across the frozen snow on the field. I do not feel very well, although the fever has gone. However, not being able to push very hard – even writing a letter a day has seemed an enormous effort – I enjoy this house, the space and light, the plant window full of flowers, cyclamen, begonias, the browallia I brought in from the garden still a marvelous deep purplish blue. The little orange tree is covered with round oranges, and, amazing to say, the lavender star-of-Bethlehem still falls in showers of little flowers. A final bowl of paper white narcissus takes my breath away with its intoxicating sweetness as I go past, for such perfume really does seem like a miracle with the frozen earth outdoors.”

I notice movement in my mood. I feel hopeful. I have been touched by beauty and have been refreshed. The Spirit keeps the Sabbath.

“He restores my inner person. He guides me in right paths for the sake of his own name.” Book of Psalms

Esperanza 2017



“Stephanart Studio New Years’ Eve” DS

The Vancouver Sun editorial, December 31, summarized that 2016 had been a terrible year: “Let’s file 2016 under miserable”. There were shootings, bombings, massacres, an assassination, murders, wildfires, viruses, protests, accidents, attacks and other deaths. And yet there were hopeful things too like peace in Columbia, the U.S. surprise win of Trump and popular vote winning for Clinton the first woman candidate. Queen Elizabeth celebrated her 90th birthday, Bob Dylan won the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature and the best hope of all – 44,495 babies born in B.C. in 2016.

On New Year’s Eve we choose to leave the old year behind and often sing Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Sine as a blessing on the year to come. It is a time of new beginnings. We sip and kiss and dance with this hope. We begin to wait.

Waiting seems at odds with progress… yet [it] is not passive but a vigilant and watchful activity designed to keep us aware of what is really going on. Isaiah evokes this radical waiting as a source of vitality: “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength /they shall mount up with wings as eagles.” Such waiting is meant to engender a lively hope rooted in the physical as well as the psyche. It is an action, the ‘hop’ contained within the word. To hope is to make a leap, to jump from where you are to someplace better. If you can imagine it, and dare to take that leap, you can go there – no matter how hopeless your situation may appear… hope has an astonishing resilience and strength… it is not a tonic for wishful thinkers but the ground on which realists stand.

Acedia & Me – Kathleen Norris

The studio appeared dark and barren for weeks. The artist was busy elsewhere. Red summer roses gone, a blackened dripping vine silhouetted the sliding door.

An idea bloomed one morning. It was just yesterday, New Year’s Day. The lights were turned on, the heat checked, then brush strokes poured forth from the neglected tool. After a period of gestation the paintings had completed their birth. It was a gift freshly given for the New Year.

The series of “Lament” paintings, four canvases, 16” x 20”: acrylic primary coloured words softened by a pale blue and green landscape format. This work, stuck since the summer for continued inspiration, was suddenly finished. This creation about the challenges of our society forms the backbone of an epic art exhibition hoped for in 2017.

So my word for 2017 is ‘Esperanza’. What is your word for the year?

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 

Book of Hebrews

Contradictions and Paradoxes

iPad photo of my studio between exhibitions

“July Studio” iPad photo of my studio between exhibitions

The term ‘Christian artist’ seems to be a contradiction in terms and in lived experience. Christians are meant to be humble. Artists have to be self-promoting. One is to be self-less, the other survives by ego.

Sometimes we proceed in quietness and confidence in the secluded studio, but we also shout from the rooftops when we open an exhibition. Art, it is said, is a right brain activity in creating yet also left-brain in planning and execution.

We hope to be all things to all people but settle for being something to someone – to at least have a niche market, a loyal following. Art is a gift, an act of freedom, yet it can be an addiction. How else can one explain the costly need to produce beauty and meaning with so little financial gain? But not all – we are called to create. Only some are chosen for success in the commercial sense. Others are juried and viewed, feted, promoted; yet our sustenance comes from elsewhere. Our studios flow and run over. It can feel like the sound of one hand clapping. It is however, for the clapping of only One.

One of my professors, Landon Mackenzie, explained to us that our culture has not figured out what to do with the products of art. She has work in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, yet storage of her unsold works is an ongoing challenge.  In the face of paradox, nothing stops her from getting her message out there. The works of beauty and meaning are awesome. The first time I came across her rich work at the Vancouver Art Gallery I prayed that I could get into her class. At first I tried and failed by breaking an ankle to which she prescribed some ‘Chardonnay therapy’. Next term I got in and produced my own best, unsold, work in her class.

I wonder this early morning, as I overlook the backyard mountains, if my work is a lavish gift to me, if not to the world. All of these ideas, the ongoing backbreaking work, and all of this education and promotion in God’s economy – is it just for me? It gives me the richest of lifestyles, a never-ending parade of life-giving images. I awake each morning brimming with creation and – donate my work. Only God would plan this paradox. I create my own visual world and live within its Louvre-like walls. I am covered with feathers but thankfully no tar.

In Proverbs 31 we read: “Her children rise up and call her blessed… and let her own works praise her at the gates”. I work hard for the future in whatever form the praise comes. Yet I do not work. I merely allow it to flow and overflow surrounding and permeating every fiber of my being. I pray that I will not become like the Dead Sea, so full of minerals that nothing can live in the waters. I need to give more workshops to keep the coloured water of my life moving forward. No stagnation for me.

My work is only a by-product of my abundant life. My mind goes off in a dozen directions yet stays on one track: paint – then get the work out there in whatever way you can. Its what you do. It consoles and desolates simultaneously.