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Friday 10 November 2023

And Into November

I am thoroughly enjoying the shift that is the end of Autumn, as it transitions to a time of inner creativity. The garden is long put to bed. The yard is cleaned up. The summer screens are out and the windows are washed clean to let the low winter sunshine flood into the rooms. Literally putting away summer and bringing out winter preparations like warmer clothing, extra bedding, scented oils and candles, feels like settling down to stay in and write, cook, brew, bake, paint, and SEW AGAIN! Summer is just way to hot in my sewing room. For a while, it felt like I was never going to sew again.

It has begun! The CREATION portion of my Research and Creation grant is in full swing. Here are some samplings of works in progress.

Northern Bedstraw almost complete

To the Bedstraw piece, I'm adding wild roses and buds within it that were a pale soft pink. I have *beautiful* plans for this that I hope I can pull off in terms of how I dream of this being displayed. At the moment, it's a combination of free motion and hand stitching. It has taken 4 weeks (I don't work on it every day, and I don't sit for 8 hrs when I do stitch, but it has been worked on nearly 7 days a week for a month.)

The next pieces were gessoed woven cotton canvas that I painted a background onto. No, I am not left handed. But - here I am, doing it. So many artists I admire are left handed. I felt left out. So, I began sketching with my left hand this summer to 'conjure the talents of my mentors.'  Oddly, I decided that my left hand art looked more natural than my right handed work, and so I just keep with it. 

All my sketches, drawings and paintings during this grant
are done with my non-dominant hand.

If you go back one blog post, you will see the source photo of this Creeping Juniper crescent I found. I'll be adding threads soon to embellish this and bring a three dimensional texture quality to the plants. My plan is to wrap the completed canvas onto stretcher bars.

Below is a triptych background I painted. Each panel is approximately 12x14 inches. Now I'm stitching the Prairie Sage and Blue Grama Grasses onto it with 12 weight thread.

three backgrounds ready to embellish

I'm so grateful to Wonderfil Thread in Canada for shipping these thick 12 weight threads to me SO quickly. Look how gorgeous they are, sitting on top of the canvas!

drawing Sage with thread, just the beginning...

All the practicing and sketching and continuous line drawing through the summer of the plants over and over was such a good plan. It made this part of the process so much smoother because drawing them out under the needle was already a memory. I could recognize the plants because I grew up with them and have been photographing them for much of my adult life. However, I didn't know how to draw them. I had never inspected them like that before. I hadn't followed all the stages of their life cycles in such detail. 

I knew many, but not all the names, and I knew nothing about the Cree names. I've already made a firm decision not to bother with Latin names at all for the plants that are indigenous to this area.

   again, THANK YOU so much CCA

I haven't taken photos in *forever* but I hear the geese in droves above. It's mid November. The ground is clean still, and the temperatures are so mild: single digits above zero Celcius. I think I will venture out to visit the creeping Juniper one more time. Maybe I will be able to bid farewell to the Sandhill Cranes as they leave.

Have a good weekend,

Monday 11 September 2023

Third Season Spectacular!

September! It's been a ride lately, settling people and gardens. The colours are changing and I've been out enjoying fieldwork all over again. This third season provides a whole new pallet and brand new experience.

Horse Tail and Creeping Juniper

I don't think we've had frost, but while the days are warm, the nights are cooling. Reds are popping up!

Rosehips and Raspberry Leaves

I love finding nature growing in circles. I'm working on a whole series of them for a solo show in March 2024! (Saskatoon)

Natural Crescent of Juniper

Isn't that BEAUTIFUL!? I adore it so much. And then as I walk and walk over hills of juniper, more red appeared!


I saw the BIGGEST coyote! I'm used to them being medium sized, thin dogs, but sheesh! This one was well fed and large! (sorry, no photo.) I've come across two large porcupines by the side of the road over the course of a couple days but cannot find anyone interested in the quills. I might just collect some anyway for some Indigenous relatives or colleagues.

And lately, with loads of rain after a spring and summer of drought conditions, we have mushrooms popping up!

Inky Caps 

Look what my son and I did with them!

It's been an artful summer indeed, and the beautiful changes that September and October bring are just beginning. I'm so very grateful.

Have a great day. Enjoy the sunshine and the glorious colours.


Monday 21 August 2023

The Prairie Continues

Still, when you drive down the highway, things look done and dry. The crops are being harvested. Season is over. It's so early though! But when you inspect the flora... it's thriving.

Bumblebees all over the Goldenrod

They were swarming!! They didn't care I was right in their midst.

This next photo (ok, cheating here) was in my neighbor's yard. Echinacea is a native plant. I'm not sure if this one in particular is a common species, however it was planted into their yard. The bees were swarming it too.

A lot of friends of mine have been posting images of bees just loading up on the flowers, sometimes a half dozen per flower! It's incredible to see.

I headed to the lake and took this photo, which I adore.

I photographed this huge rock earlier to show the new lichen that's developing on it. Now this bouquet is laid across. How perfectly lovely!!  We spend some time in the water at the lake and working on the future studio out there.

Blanket Flower

My research is winding down and my creation is gearing up. I have a couple commissions to do and I've been decluttering all my creative spaces in preparation for fall/winter studio time. It's like nesting, or building a cocoon for winter. I'm totally spring cleaning in preparation for hibernating into my studio time. I feel so good about it. The hot days we will continue to get will provide day trips to jump in the lake and play. They tend to be my favourite lake days. Sometimes I find summer a little too grueling and sluggish. My energy picks up in the fall. The colours change. The air changes. The smells change. The meals change too.

Have a beautiful August, 

~Monika K.

Thursday 10 August 2023

Creating Creeping Juniper

On my first official Fieldwork venture out for this Canada Council project, I snapped a photo of the ground in my favourite colours: orange and green. It was a scene where the orange and the green blend so well together that I sometimes say, "I need that orangy-green colour of thread." If you look on any colour wheel, I suppose it makes no sense. If you look at the prairie in late summer or autumn, you know what I'm talking about.

Creeping Juniper in May, 2023

When I snapped that picture, my first impression was that the bed of Juniper was perhaps sick or dried up. It was spring, so shouldn't it be popping with green? Nonetheless, I adored the composition because of the way it poured forward that the roots were all up on the ground. The vantage point was from lower down a sandy slope with the river behind me, far below.

The second time I went back, I took more intimate photos of the plant.  

Hey there, Bud!

WOW! The young new growth is in fact orange! How beautiful. I had not expected young Juniper to be orange. That changed my mind about the scene, knowing it was a fresh new start, new growth, and fully vibrant.

Up went the new art supplies.

I'm sure I'm not doing this right, but I felt SUPER creative at the time and this was an experiment. Thank you to my friend Suzanne for gifting the paper to my friend Jean who then gifted it to me. 5 ft wide, likely 8 ft up... a few push pins and a bench to stand on.  I figured I would draw this out in the way I prepare for my yarn embroideries - with oil pastel on paper. 

Selfie. A moment of joy.

I don't do selfies, but I was excited to show of the sheer scale of this. There, you can see the first few marks I put on the paper. I think that was the point where I was realizing I need BIGGER pastels. I didn't get very far and the traditional sticks were disappearing fast. Since I have a budget for supplies, and have good paper already, I figured I'd get some good pastels.

I purchased (locally from a brick and mortar shop, 40% off!) some delicious Sennelier Grand "real" oil pastels. 


I bought some singles to top up the colours I felt were missing for me. Let me tell ya!! These work like lipstick. Classroom oil pastels are like colouring with birthday candles. OMG That is literally the difference between artist grade and student grade. They are different materials altogether. You pay for pure pigment and not cheap binder & wax.

This is a little white I'm using.

Oh! I should tell you, I've done most of this with my non dominant hand. In fact, I've done most of my plein air sketches that way as well.

When the muse calls, and when my house is empty and the light is good, I put on a meditative song on loop and draw out the land. There's some Sinead in here more recently (I don't want what I haven't got). I don't remember what I started with, but it's usually a woman's voice.

I'm crouching, working on the Juniper roots now.

Photo of me by my son, Florian. 

I started this months ago. It's done now. The sky in the art turned out perfect in the end! It looks just like my yarn embroideries. However, today is a grey day. I'll get a photo for you as soon as the sun shines. 

~Monika K.

p.s. I thank the women who sang while I worked.

Monday 7 August 2023

Research Day - WP Fraser Herbarium

Last month, when I met with Ken Van Rees, he told me about OUR herbarium he uses at the University of Saskatchewan. (I mean, of course we would have one. Why hadn't I thought of searching for that?) So I found it online: The W P Fraser Herbarium. There is a virtual visual catalogue of endangered, at risk, and extirpated plants in my province. That's all that's available for online viewing. That's awesome. But I wanted to see more, so I emailed them with questions.

The response I got back was so wonderful. Hugo, the head of the Herbarium invited me to visit. In his absence (summer travels), his assistant Denver graciously set up a time for me to come in with my son to see the space, the plants, the library and collect specific lists.

The library is absolutely massive and global.

Oh! The library. SWOON. There are three shelves the run the entire length of the Herbarium and they are LOADED with all types of reference books imaginable: Water plants. Poisons. Medicines. A series of what looked like 'ancient' encyclopedias entitled Vascular Plants of USSR. Fungi of Boreal Forests. Food Plants. Flora of the Great Plains. Catalogue of New World Grasses. Out of print books in languages from around the world. Brand new publications. A thesis with Cree names for plants in Canada. 

And then there's the specimens. 170,000 I think I was told?

This is before you enter the Herbarium collection.

I'm not sure, but I think those were waiting to be catalogued. I could be wrong. Here I am with Denver as he shows me Herbarium samples in the storage facilities.

I had so many questions. He was so generous with his time and information. He took out some samples for me and explained how they were mounted. He instructed me as to how to handle them properly (always face up, do not flip over like pages of a book).

Photographing samples (my boy photographing me)

Isn't this beautiful!? I love the pattern. Some specimens had three leaves. Some had five. This one had four. They were all the same plant. One was dated from far enough back that it said it was collected from the town of Sutherland, Saskatchewan which is now an area within Saskatoon, east of the University.

W P Fraser Herbarium collection

I asked if I could sit and sketch. "Go right ahead!" (yay!!) So I did. I sketched a few blind contour drawings of this lovely plant with my non-dominant hand. I feel like it's committed to memory now.

Back at home, I checked my email and there was a thank you message from the Herbarium with loads of links to useful PDFs that were specific to my questions. I feel like I hit the jackpot! Denver also let me know of a really amazing website I want to share with you.

WOW - it's amazing. Thank you Denver! As for the Fraser Herbarium, it is not open to the public per se. You simply need to contact them to request a tour or visit.

Happy August Long!
xo Monika K.
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