Marked with an X –reprise


Last night was the annual EcoGala- an amazing and supremely well attended event and Marked with an X made another, and perhaps its final appearance. My noble husband Stephen made a set of panels to display the work at the back of the banquet hall.

Stephen is assembling the display for the EcoGala.
Stephen is assembling the display for the EcoGala.

Once again, we used this as a fund-raising opportunity. When people made a donation to Tree Ottawa, they could choose a tree painting to take home with them. The money raised is to support  Tree Ottawa’s plan to plant a million trees in Ottawa by 2017. We met many wonderful people who are passionate about the environment. What a treat to talk to these folks! And so gratifying to see them walking away with little tree paintings.

I am very glad that we did this project. It was a tremendous amount of work but I learned so much. I had never considered:

  • working with multiples
  • flexible display, that allowed us to add and remove items easily
  • using an art project to fundraise

I hope never to see such a quantity of velcro in one place again, however.

The emerald ash borer makes his final appearance.
The emerald ash borer makes his final appearance.


Nuit Blanche

GwenFrankton_1Here are some of the many little paintings for my piece for Nuit Blanche. The ash trees, dead or dying, are all marked with an X. The images are all mounted on wooden panels and are attached, with velcro, to velcro strips on the wall. When you enter the studio you’ll be surrounded by these tree images on all sides. Visitors will be invited to make a donation to Trees Ottawa (  in support of their goal –1000000 trees by 2017. When a donation is made the visitor may take one of the tree panels. We’ll replace it with a small printed image of a sapling. We hope that by the end of the evening there will be many saplings – a message of hope.


Many little paintings

Ash_casein_1-1 Arboretum1-1 adult-hig-school-1Another long silence but here are three of the almost 1000 little paintings which will be in my Nuit Blanche installation, Marked With an X  (September 19). It takes a heck of a long time to create and mount this many little paintings. I believe that it will be a once in a lifetime experience. I am now busy making some emerald ash borers.

Marked with an X – Nuit Blanche

July17-2I haven’t posted for a while but there’s a reason for this. I have been shifting gears. After the show Every Green Tree was over, I became involved in preparing a piece for Nuit Blanche – an endeavour significantly different from anything I’ve done before; much thinking, much discussing, and much floundering about.

The theme of Nuit Blanche this year is “Hype.” A definition of hype is, “exaggeration for the purpose of persuasion.” I have been very concerned about the loss of Ottawa’s ash trees to the depredations of the emerald ash borer. Thirty percent of the trees in Ottawa’s urban forest have died. What a loss and what a difference this makes to our urban landscape! I would like to persuade people living in Ottawa to plant and care for a tree, to replace one that has been killed. So, that’s what my piece, Marked with an X, is all about.

I decided that I would paint many, many little tree portraits, all of real trees,  which will cover the studio space. When you enter it will look like a forest. Thirty percent of the trees in the forest are marked with an X. They are all dead or dying ash trees, marked because they will be cut. Viewers will see at once that this is a lot of trees!

July17And where does the exaggeration come in? I see it as exaggeration of effort. The paintings are so small, so carefully done, and there are so many of them. I am hoping that viewers will be impacted by this visual representation and the obvious care and effort put into conveying it, and persuaded to take away information about planting and caring for trees, eventually following through and participating in this effort to replenish the urban canopy.

Hug a tree – some sources of information


Here we are looking pleased with ourselves after hanging the show.

Husband Stephen, me, friends Sue and Ian McMaster
Husband Stephen, me, friends Sue and Ian McMaster

And here is a list I’m compiling of useful sources of information for those of us who love trees.

Some sources of information for tree-huggers

Arbour Week  in Mississippi Mills  April 18-26

  • Special focus on heritage trees
  • Tree Walks and Talks, Tree Bike Ride
  • Wednesday, April 22, Almonte Old Town Hall, speaker on invasive species, tree art


Tree Ottawa

Tree Ottawa strives to dramatically increase the scale and ecological diversity of the tree canopy in urban and rural Ottawa.

Tree Ottawa

Trees Ontario

They have various planting initiatives and a heritage tree program.

Shady Characters

Neil Carleton’s column about trees and tree-related items of interest in the Millstone News, online at

Mississipi Madawaska Land Trust

The Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust (MMLT) is a non-profit charitable organization that works in and on behalf of the people and communities in the region, to preserve ecologically sensitive lands for the long term.

Creativity Blitz at High Lonesome on May 2nd- a lovely event for tree-huggers and friends.

10 Trees That Can Save the World

10 Trees That Can Save the World  is a movement inspired by Canadian environmental visionary Diana Beresford-Kroeger, her book “The Global Forest” and her personal mission to educate 7 billion people about the trees outside their doors –

Looking good!

… or at least, looking good in my admittedly biased opinion. The gallery space at MERA has been so nicely repainted and I am really pleased with the way the paintings look. Here I am, working on the mural. if you are new to these pages you may not know about this magnum opus. it’s in pen and ink, an unusual medium for such a large piece of work. Many little marks.


Working on the mural
Working on the mural



Getting ready!

Today my fine husband, Stephen, and I are going to the studio to wrap the paintings in preparation for the show. It’s going to be a busy week with friends, family and the dog sucked into the vortex. We’ll hang the show on Thursday, with the valued assistance of friend Sue M.

Here are some of the paintings, waiting for the move.

prep1 prep2 prep3There are twenty paintings in all. I’ll be updating the gallery page when I get back from wrapping, wrapping, wrapping, so if you can’t be here you’ll still be here, so to speak.

Painting through the seasons – and the snake that growled

I have always wanted to do a series of paintings of the same place throughout the seasons. I have yet to achieve this but these paintings are the closest I have come. They are of a stream that runs through a swampy area into the Ottawa river, seen from the trail through the Crystal Bay conservation area. The first one is in the fall, and the second in the winter. Actually, the little painting at the top of this page is also of this area, in the spring. It doesn’t match in size or format, though, so I guess it doesn’t count.

Stream near the river, 2012
Stream near the river, 2012

My family has a long history of this area. There used to be a clubhouse belonging to the Ottawa Field Naturalists on one of the trails, I don’t know where. But I do remember being carried on my father’s shoulders to visit the clubhouse. And for years my father botanized here, both my parents watched birds and my mother lived right on the conservation area for the last years of her life. I used to run along the trails a lot when I was visiting from Nunavut. And my son, Gaelan, taught himself to ride a bike here, once running into a tree as part of that endeavour.

The site of the painting is also the scene of my encounter with the snake that growled. I am ashamed to admit that I have never been really easy about snakes. On this particular day I was running along the trail, thinking idle, running thoughts. Suddenly I saw a snake, in the grass at the side of the trail. It was just a garter snake, if memory serves, but oh horror, it was growling. I ran much faster than I was generally known to do and didn’t stop until I reached the parking lot where I leapt into my car and dashed home to my parents’ house with my fearsome tale. My father, much amused, suggested that perhaps the snake was in the process of swallowing some small creature which was expressing understandable dismay. Perhaps.

Stream near the river- winter, 2015
Stream near the river- winter, 2015

Another sticker

This is another sticker taken from my sketchbook: a sumac branch. Honestly, you could draw and paint sumac all day long; the colours of the leaves are so compelling, and sumac is really quite interesting too. For one thing, it’s in the cashew family. It’s dioecious – large clumps can form either male or female plants. It spreads using seeds or by spreading rhizomes. A clump is a colony with older plants in the centre and younger trees spreading out. And every tree in a clump is genetically identical to every other tree.

Sumac sticker
Sumac sticker

I seem to remember making a tart, pink beverage out of the fruit but have no recollection as to how it tasted. I’ve learned that all parts of the staghorn sumac, except for the roots, can be used as a natural dye and a mordant (or fixative). You can get colours ranging from tan to a deep burgundy. Apparently, it’s rich in tannins and you can add it to other dye baths to improve light fastness. Who knew?

The show at MERA is coming soon

Rack card-front
Rack card-front

This is the rack card I created for the upcoming show. I like making rack cards, I like their shape. It’s something of a guilty pleasure.

The show, at MERA, will run from April 3rd -28th and the vernissage will be on April 12th, from 2-5 p.m. My accomplished (and handsome) son Gaelan will soon be adding a map of the location to this site. And can I lure you there by telling you that I will be making the gingersnaps for which I have something of a reputation? And Gaelan’s sticky buns will also be featured. As will many paintings and drawings of trees.

Rack card-reverse
Rack card-reverse