When Mum’s an Artist

We have a new neighbour in our little subdivision and it’s been pretty fun for my 8 year old son to have another boy to play with. It’s hard to be a boy with two big sisters!

Wesley’s friend was fascinated by the fact that I am an artist, and when he’s over to play, often he will come check up on me and what I’m up to in the studio. I overheard him ask Wes, “What’s it like having a mum who’s an artist?” Wesley just kind of grunted; it’s not something he’s ever spent time thinking about, and he’s “guy” enough that he wouldn’t have an answer even if he had pondered it. I think my husband would answer the same way!

I’ve spent a little time thinking about what it might be like to have an artist for a parent, and I don’t think I would change a thing. Of course, my children have grown up in a home where paintings littered the art room (how many families even HAVE an art room?!), where mum stops the car to snap a reference photo, or drops down into the dirt to study the light on a fallen leaf. For all they know, every child lives under the stricture that under no circumstances should mum’s palette be touched and that sky is not merely blue, it’s cobalt. Not to mention the wealth of art supplies they have to work with for their own creative projects!

Having an artist parent is a gift for my children, whether they know it or not. They won’t suffer in a home that allows art to come before housework, and where supper is sometimes an afterthought (if I can make it in 30 minutes, it goes into permanent menu rotation). What they have been given is an opportunity to see what it looks like to pursue a dream. So many people live with secret desires that remain unspoken and locked tightly away. It is a frightening thing to chase a dream. It is so tempting to just postpone that proposal, not make the call or send the email to start the ball rolling, to enter the gallery and leave without asking for an audience (which I have done, many times).

I’m not saying I always choose rightly. My children and husband need to come first in my life, and it is not always easy to know how to prioritize so that marriage, art and family can live in harmony. But in living this artist’s life, my kids see someone who says, “I can do something great,” and then give it her best shot. That is one of many things I want for them to take into adulthood.

Alaska Highway Road Trip, Muncho Lake & Liard Hot Springs

I consider myself very fortunate to live where I do. Canada is a vast and beautiful nation, and British Columbia one of its most varied and awe-inspiring provinces. This Labour Day weekend my husband and I drove our family north, far past the limits of our sadly American atlas (which cuts British Columbia off somewhere past Fort St. John, less than 100km north of home) to mile 463 of the Alaska Highway for a weekend camping adventure.

family photo at Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

Our ultimate destination: Liard Hot Springs. I had been there once before, on my eighteenth birthday, which was nineteen years ago. Did I mention that my birthday is in February? Though it was -30C that day (-22F) my parents, siblings and I bathed comfortably in the natural hotsprings, framed by frost-rimed trees. I had never visited the hot springs in summer, and Wade had never been north of Fort Nelson.

The eight-hour drive became much more scenic after leaving the oil & gas fields of Fort St. John and Fort Nelson. The trees thickened, the mountains emerged and the highway wound, nearly empty of traffic. Just the way we like it; tons of scenery and no one to share it with!

into the north | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

I promised myself I wouldn’t take photos through the windshield. Promises like that can’t help but be broken when the scenery is so spectacular around every bend.

northern BC rainbows | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

We were prepared for rain, but saw little – our camping was chilly; tenting in the north requires lots of layers as even at the end of August, frost is a definite possibility. We were fortunate and it didn’t freeze at night. We pitched our tent on the shores of Muncho Lake, and I went out several times a day to photograph the jade-green waters and moody skies.

Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com sky over Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

The lake makes no claims to warmth; the estimated summer temperature is 10C (50F) but we just had to take a dip anyhow. Brrrr! It was gaspingly cold!

swimming at Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

From cold to hot; we achieved our main objective when we arrived at Liard Hotsprings. This beautiful spot is a true gem on the Alaska Highway and it was wonderful to see it in summer. The hot springs have been maintained as naturally as possible. One side of the springs holds the change rooms, stairs and benches for entering the water, and the other three sides are natural, banked by rock and clay, ferns and green plants and trees. The bottom of the springs is pebbled with black & grey and the springs flow into a lower pool of cooler water, and then out a narrow, twisting channel until the water justs trickles away.

Liard hot springs | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

The pool was enjoyed by about twenty other people – we overheard conversations with both locals and tourists, and many who, like us, live a few hours’ drive away and were visiting for the weekend.

boardwalk at Liard Hot Springs | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

Though the day was brisk and cool, we were heated through and stayed warm through even after changing and drying off in the unheated change rooms and walking a quarter mile along the boardwalk back to the truck.

I can’t tell you how much we enjoyed our weekend! I took so many photos with future paintings in mind. I spend way too much time thinking, “How would I paint that?” and I can’t wait to start trying to answer that question and painting some of my impressions of beautiful northern British Columbia.

cloud break at Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

bison at Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

bisonstone sheep at Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

We saw stone sheep, bison and caribou along the edge of the highway. 


At Home with Angela: a garden tour

I tell people that I don’t garden, but that’s not strictly true. There are three small rows of peas, nine hills of potatoes, strawberry and raspberry plants in my veg garden and as usual, my harvest will be poor. If things grew better in that spot, I might try harder, but I can’t be both a painter and an avid gardener. I just don’t have that kind of time!

I do love my flowers, and so I’ve worked to find flowers that I love, that are easy to care for and provide lots of colour in our northern (Zone 2-3) region. From a distance my beds may not look that impressive; this one is at the side of the yard and driveway:


But when you get in a little closer, there’s lots to love. Grape hyacinths, tulips and irises to bloom in spring, and right now is lily and delphinium season:

I bought these pink lilies at a garage sale, and they have multiplied ridiculously. I have realized that I don’t really love lilies. I am crazy about delphiniums though. They are a watercolour painter’s dream. The colours! From traditional blues…flowers8



…to white, purple and pinky-mauve…

This new colour I nabbed last year and is just incredible. It’s a blue-violet at the edges, but the centres are apple-green. I keep blinking, thinking I am seeing wrong. I love it so much.flowers1 Every year I plant hanging baskets and it takes forever for them to fill out and look good. This year I spent a few dollars more on already planted baskets and I am so glad I did. They are exuberantly full of cascading colour.
flowers2 I didn’t go with a colour scheme, just picking up whatever looked pretty, and I love the riot of colour.flowers3flowers7I am so thankful for flowers. They inspire me all the time, and I gain a new appreciation for colour when I study the complexities of colour and tone in these beautiful blooms.


Art & the Hot Rod Guy

Did I ever tell you that I’m married to an artist? It has never been hard to be a working artist in this home because my husband Wade has always understood my passion to create. From the early days of getting to know each other, I knew he was a creative, like I am. Only his creativity has its outlet in horsepower.

rat rod july 2014

Five years ago we took a drive out in the country and he spotted a rusty old truck in a field. (I’ve given up on pointing out rusty vehicles in the bush, because I can never tell which ones are “cool” and which he considers rightly abandoned.) He did a little detective work to find the owner, and a few days later we were waist-deep in grass, winching a 1938 Fargo pickup out of the bush.

2009July 014

Like any important project, the Fargo sat for a long time before he was able to make a plan for its reincarnation as a cool hot rod. There were frustrating sessions on the internet, searching for parts, months of saving money for the next big ticket item on the restoration shopping list, Pinterest boards full of “rat rods” and even a road trip into the United States to pick up a hemi engine from a guy he met online. Wade’s been frustrated many times by how long a build can take when you are fitting it in after 12-hour workdays, raising a family and caring for a home and yard, and by the solitary nature of the project. It was very exciting to realize this spring that this was the year. 2014 was going to be the year the rat rod went to the car show!

“Hemi Alley” – just a small part of 8 blocks of the Mile Zero Cruisers show & shine, downtown Dawson Creek, British Columbia.

A couple of weeks ago he got the motor running. Then the truck went on its first test drive.

Finishing touches were added to the interior (I helped stencil the coffee sack seats!), and on Sunday we loaded the truck on a trailer and took it into Dawson Creek for the Mile Zero Cruisers’ annual show & shine. It was Wade’s day to shine (at least, metaphorically) and I loved being able to be a part of his entry to local car culture, to hear the comments from the crowd and meet some really interesting car guys.


Not everyone understands the “rat rod” thing. “What colour are you going to paint it?” a few people asked. But many more appreciated the creativity that goes into creating a truck that’s an homage to big motors and loud noise, something that is completely unique and an expression of its builder. As a watercolour painter, I may not actually appreciate the noise part, but the individuality is something I can always get behind. I’m pretty proud of my guy, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll build next.


interior july 2014

The door panel was part of an old Coke machine and comes with bottle opener – so handy!

rat rod overflow

The old Crush bottle was in the truck when we got it. Wade repurposed it as an overflow for the radiator.

Visiting Waterton National Park

Red Rock Parkway, Waterton National Park, Alberta, Canada | angelafehr.comOur family recently returned from a ten day vacation. We love to travel together, but my husband is self-employed as a builder and so we find it hard to plan around his work schedule. When he gets a few days off, we’d better be ready to go!

Mountains appearing south of Lethbridge, Alberta Canada | angelafehr.com

Our first glimpse of the mountains as we near Waterton National Park. Getting excited!

Approaching Waterton National Park, Alberta, Canada | AngelaFehr.com

Imagining what it would be like to enjoy this daily view!

This was the first time we’d been able to vacation (outside of annual visits to family) in about four years and we enjoyed every minute of the drive to Waterton National Park in southern Alberta. Many people I talked to prior to our trip commented that Waterton was their favourite park, and we sure found out why! The park was just opening up for the season and so the stream of tourists was only a trickle; perfect for a family that is used to rural life.

Waterton Lake, Alberta Canada | Angela Fehr.com

Waterton Lake, Alberta Canada | AngelaFehr.com

Waterton is known for beautiful Waterton Lake, and for sharing its border with Glacier National Park in Montana. We experienced both parks as we took a boat tour across the lake, marveling at the brilliant blue-green of the glacier-fed lake, the rugged rocky coast, and the spires of mountain peaks framing every perspective. You are right if you imagine that I took hundreds of photos, planning paintings in my mind!Waterton Lake, Alberta Canada | Angela Fehr.com

Red Rock Parkway in Waterton National Park, Alberta Canada | AngelaFehr.com

While Waterton didn’t have the feel of a large park; we spend two full days there and really felt like we saw everything we wanted to see. We drove the Red Rock Parkway to Red Rock Canyon; a beautiful drive with mountain sheep and black bears grazing along the hills, and hiked on several different trails. There were still a few skiffs of snow along the trail, though the sun was warm, and the boys in our family declared war on each other, throwing snowballs all the way. We traversed an avalanche field and studied the destructive wake. We ate ice cream, bought souvenirs and watched the Survivor finale in our hotel room at night.

Avalanche site, Waterton National Park | AngelaFehr.com

Crossing the avalanche field.

Waterton townsite, Waterton National Park, Alberta Canada | angelafehr.com

Overlooking Waterton townsite.

Shooting Stars in Waterton National Park, Alberta Canada | angelafehr.com

Wildflowers in bloom everywhere!

The Prince of Wales hotel in Waterton National Park, Alberta Canada | AngelaFehr.com

Historic Prince of Wales hotel in Waterton National Park.

Hiking in Waterton National Park | angelafehr.com Waterton Lake Overlook, Waterton National Park, Alberta, Canada | AngelaFehr.com

When it came time to head home, we took our time. Our home in northern British Columbia falls along the border of BC and Alberta, just a little east of the Rocky Mountains, so we drove through the mountains all the way home, passing through Yoho National Park, Lake Louise, and Jasper National Park. We’ve spent a lot of time at Jasper since it’s only 5 hours drive from home, but this was the first time passing through in the spring, and there was still a lot of snow on the mountains. We competed to see who could spot a glacier first, and skipped rocks on a frozen lake (much easier than on an unfrozen one!).

Black Bear in Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada | AngelaFehr.com waterfalls in Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada | AngelaFehr.com Visiting Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada | angelafehr.com

Family vacations are always enjoyable, and when we get to spend them in one of the most beautiful places on earth, we are pretty fortunate. And proud to be Canadian! It’s like we own a little piece of wonder, right here.

Visiting Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada | angelafehr.com


Paint the Town Red: Fashionably Retro

There’s been a bit of a theme to my shopping lately:red stuff 2

I took advantage of a family trip to the city and did a little shopping earlier this week. I’ve been eyeing retro pinup styles for a long time, and am slowly working some 50’s fun into my look. Sometimes I feel like a bit of a late bloomer, at the age of 37, to be jumping into trying new styles of fashion and makeup, but it’s actually a natural evolution of my love for colour, line and design. I love colour, and it just makes sense to be adding a little dramatic style to the way I look since I spend so much time playing with colour and design in my artistic life. And being in my thirties means I’m braver to try things that I would have been self-conscious about in my teens & twenties.

It’s fun to play with colour, and I’m so glad I can do it in more than just painting. It’s a lot of fun. Next up will be shopping for and sewing dresses for my daughters in full-skirted 50’s styles. We are going to a wedding this summer and we’re going there in retro-glam style!

Shoes are Giulia from John Fluevog, and they are fantastic.

Weekly Update

Sometimes a busy life comes to a head; everything happening at once. That’s how it’s felt lately.

My daughters are competing in a drawing contest for Laroche-Posay, and their cute little drawings need your vote! You can vote for Rory or Samantha F. by visiting this link: http://itchfreeday.laroche-posay.ca/contest

I’ve got a mention on a parenting web site – one of my homeschooling ideas made it into an article about enrichment activities for kids. My own belief is that the best enrichment activities involve eye contact, conversation, and laughter.

I have posted two new YouTube videos this week and one is a little more craft-related than my usual painting demonstrations. I’m teaching this same technique this afternoon to seven girls in my monthly girls’ art course.

You can purchase the materials used in the project on my web site here (Canadian residents only). I’ll share a link to my other new video in my next post.

Tomorrow I’ll be at the annual general meeting of the Peace Watercolour Society, making plans for our year and our annual exhibition. It’s always a treat to get together and “talk shop.” No one understands a watercolourist like another watercolourist!

Messy & Beautiful.

I really love people. After my post about the difficulties of the last month, I received so many kind comments and emails! Thank you for your encouraging words and be assured that all is well here. Communication alone can help so much when times are tough, and having so many supportive friends both in “real life” and online is such a blessing.

Rose Hips in Winter photo by Angela Fehr

Today I was able to be a blessing to a friend who needed a ride to the airport. And I very nearly was the opposite! The morning was cold, -30C (-22F) and my van decided to stage a protest at driving in those temperatures. A couple frantic calls to my husband, a hastily improvised shield of cardboard in front of the radiator, and we made it safely to the airport, an hour from home. And I got to tease my husband, who is a licensed mechanic, since the cardboard was my idea, not his. I will be bragging about my vehicle-fixing abilities for a long time to come!

My middle daughter has decided that what her mother needs is guerilla kisses. She’s been sneaking up on me at random moments, at home and away, and giving me sneaky smooches on the cheek. I’m loving it – she’s such a comedian and it’s just like her to express her love in a goofy way.

And I held my annual paper crafting garage sale for charity last night. Raised $152 to buy sewing machines for women in India, and a few more people are planning to come out and check out what’s left and donate to the cause. I love being able to do this every year around my birthday, and I’m thankful for the people who are so willing to give generously. Next year I plan to change up the idea – still doing something for charity, but maybe a different approach. I’d love to sell tickets to win a painting but I’m not sure of the rules for this kind of giveaway. I’ve got a year to figure it out.

I guess this post is just a reminder that life is messy and beautiful, painful and poignant.

Giving Up on Family. Or Not.

I’ve felt a lot like giving up lately. It’s hard to write that. As a person who believes in positive thinking, in seeing the best in every situation, I don’t like myself when I’m feeling defeated. February was just a tough month, for many reasons. The weather’s been terrible, cold and bleak. A close friend of mine was killed in a car accident, leaving behind a husband and three young children. We are just so, so sad for the family’s loss. And our own; she was a great friend.  Grief affects every part of your life, and things I ordinarily would cope with smoothly are jarring and jagged. I’ve been buried in bookkeeping and under a time crunch, and homeschooling? Well, let’s just say that if I could quit, I would. The kids have been bucking me at every turn when it comes to getting their work done, and then there was a bit of a kerfluffle over report cards (we are enrolled with a distance learning school, and the teachers make sure what we do complies with provincial education standards). And I miss painting when things get busy like this and I can’t escape to a fresh sheet of watercolour paper and a palette of juicy pigment.

As my kids get older, I am realizing what people say about parenting getting harder. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that I looked forward to their learning to communicate, as I spend so much of my day attempting to model and teach respect in tone and content of speech. I had no idea that my children would be so good at minding other people’s business! And that’s just in their relationships with each other. When it comes to dealing with their mother, especially when I am in the role of educator, it’s often a battle of wills and manipulation. The strategies they will resort to in when they don’t want to work (or don’t think they can understand a concept), they would never even try if it were a non-family member teaching them. Tears, blame, throwing of pencils, gnashing of teeth; it’s all in the arsenal when work is on the line.

I hear you thinking, “Then why homeschool? You’re just making work for yourself.” And it is work. I vented to my husband the other night after the worst day ever, telling him how frustrating things were, and how disrespected I felt, and how I had told the kids that if things didn’t improve by the end of this school year that I would not be teaching them again. They like homeschooling, so it does help to remind them that we need to work together for this to work. But after pouring out my heart to Wade, I had to acknowledge that our problem is not a homeschooling problem. Homeschooling is not the bad guy here. Even if my kids were in school 7 hours a day, these behavioural issues that arise in our home would remain; we might be confronting them less often, but that doesn’t make them any less real. I will still try to control them (and I confess that sometimes our family issues come out of my tendency to be dictatorial), and they will still fight authority. I should be thankful that in being at home together full time, we have a  limitless span of opportunity for teaching and demonstrating respect, cooperation, patience and all those other character traits that, when properly developed, will help my children function peaceably in society. It’s a brutal ton of work, and it’s easy to feel defeated at this stage when these qualities are so lacking (and I’m so woefully aware of my own shortcomings in these areas as they are tested at every turn), but we keep working at it, because it is so important, and really, I have no choice. Because whether or not we homeschool from K – grade 12, I won’t quit at parenting.

Thanks for listening to my outpourings – it’s been a better week so far (last week was awful) and we are getting a handle on some of the work that needs to get done around here. And I’ve got a nasty head cold that’s helping me take things a little more easily around here. Missing my friend, but thankful for the example she left of love for family & friends and enthusiasm for life.