A Trip into the Wilderness

The sun is shining and the strawberries are ripening! We’ve had a beautiful and very dry spring and now that summer has hit, so have summer thunderstorms. I’m thankful for adventures that have already happened this month. Every time we go out adventuring, I get to add to my life experiences and my paintings get richer. The trick is deciding what to paint!

A couple of weeks ago, we loaded up some ATV’s and met my sister and family for an off roading adventure about 3 hours from home. We were able to drive into the northern Rocky Mountains and explore along the Red Deer River. I’m not a rugged outdoorsy type, but I do love nature and beautiful scenery, and there was plenty of both!

red deer 1

We stopped for lunch at the beginning of the trail, surrounded by mountains.

red deer 2

Everywhere along the trail you could see traces of wildfire destruction. Most wildfires in our region are caused by lightning, and the skeletal trees lend an extra sense of the power of nature in the raw.

red deer river

The river curved beneath us, glacier blue.

red deer 3

When I wasn’t driving quad, I was crouched along the trail, catching photos of the wildflowers. I could identify many; columbine (shown), wild forget-me-nots, lupines, wild roses, paintbrush in neon hues, and many more I wasn’t familiar with.

red deer 4

Were it not for my brother-in-law, we might have missed the trail branching off to the falls, a short walk and we were there. Water cascading, fire-stripped trees right up the river’s edge on the south side of the river, and a whole micro-system of flowers and mosses thriving in the misty air. We scrambled down to the base of the falls;

red deer 5

The misty coldness felt fantastic on our dusty faces after our 10 km trail ride. One of the things we love most about living up north is the solitude. Throughout the day we were the only ones at the falls and saw only a few signs of other humans around. We did scare away a grizzly sow and cub, but otherwise we felt like the only people in a hundred miles. It’s one of the things that is disillusioning about travel; going to a famous park or landmark and being just one of the crowd. It’s pretty fun to feel like you are part of a beautiful secret; a gem of nature that few people get to experience.

red deer 6

The long drive home (we got home at midnight!) was pretty painful; we were all so tired and grubby. The glorious sunset made it better, and we counted wildlife as we drove, watching carefully we saw moose, elk and a grizzly bear along the road. That grizzly was pretty confident of his position as king of the forest; we stopped the truck to look at him in the darkening night and he ignored us as he foraged in the weeds. Nature is pretty amazing, and it always inspires me. I’m so thankful I get to enjoy the beauty of the world where I live. As much as I’d love to travel, there’s so much to see here that I haven’t experienced yet!

Lasting Value, Pain and Growth

I’ve been working hard this last month on a personal project of improving my diet and it’s been exciting lately to see the changes I’ve made turn into habits and the accompanying results. I really wanted to write a blog post sharing my achievements in this area, however, I read a post on Facebook by Jann Arden and it’s been clanging around in my head all day:

Nothing can take the place of loss- not food or drink or drug. Loss is its own sticky mass of nothingness. What good I have learned in my life has come from it. What has made me better and more empathic has trickled into my soul because of losing. Winning has only served to make me more shallow and more narcissistic. Winning always somehow managed to give me a false sense of pride and unearned status. I much prefer he gentleness of defeat- the humility that comes with not getting it right-the subtle beautiful shame that only comes with being beaten down.
The people that have come and gone from my life have shaped every facet of my personality. They’ve taught me how to cry with reckless abandon and clench my teeth without breaking them off. There are people still very much alive- that I will mourn until the day I die. For whatever reason the universe pushes us onward, forcing us to change ourselves over and over and over again. No amount of time can erase the pain of lost love. It lingers like smoke from burning rubber tires. The scent seeps into your bones and stays there to remind you how small you are in all the vastness. How could something so very small- feel so incredibly BIG?

I believe that this is so very true. As I look back over the last month, I can’t minimize the difficulty of working to “win” at changing my diet and attitudes about food, however, focusing on self-improvement has a tendency to turn my focus inward and make my field of view very narrow. Losing a few pounds feels like a victory, and it is, but it’s not as valuable as becoming a kinder, more giving, more loving person, and I have to be very careful not to let my perceived accomplishment give me that false sense of pride or the idea that I am somehow a better person because I’m a little healthier or thinner.

Not only my diet falls under this false sense of pride, but my art career. It is exciting to see growth, to receive emails from fans, or awards from my peers. It is pretty easy to fall into the thinking that “I must be pretty special to get all this attention.” It’s dangerous. I never want to stop striving to be better, to give more, to appreciate what I’ve been given. Blessings are gifts that are unearned; none of us enjoy giving a gift to someone who accepts it as their rightful due.

We cannot underestimate the value of empathy, generosity of spirit, kindness of heart and faithful love. These are of inestimable value, and they don’t come on the easy path. They are won through pain, tears and perseverance in struggle and loss. Recognizing the value of pain in developing our character gives meaning to suffering, and offers hope for the future. Maybe we don’t want an easy path through life. Maybe in hurting we will be better able to share hope in a hurting world.

Jann’s wise words on Facebook paraphrase the wisest wordsmith of all:
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Romans 5:4-5

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Note: I’m not saying making physical changes, or working to improve oneself isn’t a good thing. But I so need that reminder of where true and lasting value lies, and that maybe I need to brag on myself a little less and love others a little more. I’m so thankful for the people that model that kind of selfless love in my love. Many of them are family members and they are ones who leave a legacy.

Spring Awakenings

It’s hard to live in the north. Following our USA vacation, I’m more aware of that than ever. There’s a fresh 4 inches of snow outside on this May morning, and even when it’s not snowing, spring has felt so chilly! At least the leaves are finally emerging. I thrill to that golden green mist creeping across the hills.

leafy greens

It would be easy to complain about our region for other reasons as well. The difficulty of being an artist in an oilfield town where the priorities fall more to diesel trucks and snowmobiles than fine paintings, where galleries are few and struggling. It’s tempting to expect failure when there are so many reasons one might not succeed.

But I do love living here. There are many pluses to rural life – the peace & open spaces, the small town community dynamic, the subtle and rugged beauty of the north. The northern lights, the wildlife, the Peace River.

view from our ridge

It takes faith to believe that I am where I am supposed to be, not just in the north, but in my family, career, goals & dreams, and I believe strongly in rejecting negative attitudes about the challenges and expectations of making a career in art. There is a little voice in all of us that shouts, “CAN’T” when we dream and plan and this voice has done more to defeat dreams than any location, obstacle or outside force.

There are no promises to any of us; life can change in an instant, and faith doesn’t eliminate the possibility of things going wrong. But in believing that God has placed me here, I can choose to be content. Pursue my dreams within the boundaries and celebrate being able to live this amazing artistic life.

Writing on this topic periodically – I’m ambitious and love that my career has grown, in more ways than I could have dreamed, but it can be hard not to fixate on the times I have had to say “no” to opportunities because of family commitments. I believe the Bible is true and it says in Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

and Psalm 37:4: Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

I’m thankful for this promise of peace and joy in the midst of whatever I’m going through, even third-grade math agonies (we are doing double-digit multiplication and it’s a LONG school day). Blessings to you!

Ten Reasons to Feel Great at 38

I turned thirty-eight on the weekend and I have to say that for the artist, aging doesn’t have to be a threatening concept. After all, for the artist, one’s art can only get better with age and experience. My paintings are the sum of my experiences in life and my skill with my chosen medium, so the passing of time is a good thing!

A few more reasons turning 38 is just fine:

  1. Mind-blowing fundraiser. My “Hope for Women” birthday campaign has raised over $1300 for women in Asia and with just a few days left, I think we might just triple my original goal of $500. Thank you!
  2. Fabulous cake. I try to make the fanciest cake I can think of for my birthday as an excuse to really indulge, and this year’s triple chocolate mousse cake was seriously over the top! So good.
  3. Health. This year I’ve seen a few nagging things pop up (just ask me about my bunions, I dare you!) but overall I’m so thankful to be healthy and strong. No one should ever take this for granted.
  4. People. The longer I live, the more amazing people I get to meet. I’ve got an incredible family (more on that later) and I love encountering new and interesting people, making friends and seeing relationships evolve and mature.
  5. Experiences. Getting older means more opportunities to experience new things. This year that means travel, but some years it’s just little things. Trying a new food, learning a new skill, hearing a new song or reading a special book.
  6. Perspective. Age and maturity have helped me to realize that 1. I can’t always trust my emotions and 2. I will survive whatever difficulty I am enduring. My children are 8, 10 and 12, and when they are going through a frustrating time, there is no convincing them that they will get through it and it’s not as big a deal as it seems. I am encouraged when I remember how past troubles have shaped me into a stronger person and I can trust God to help me with whatever is next.
  7. Family. For many years my parents lived on the other side of the world. I am so thankful they live nearby now and we can share so many memories.
  8. Family. My husband and I have been married for seventeen years and I can’t take for granted the joy of sharing life with a best friend and partner who is so worthy of my respect. I look forward to growing old with this guy. And my kids; as they get older I look forward more and more to all the experiences we will share and enjoy who they are becoming.
  9. My painting career. I love that I can do what I love AND view it as a career that is growing and moving ahead. It can be a frustrating, slow-moving journey, but it is always richly rewarding and exciting to imagine what lies ahead and what doors art will open to me, as it has already.
  10. I’m not 40 yet! Okay, this is silly, because I resolved long ago to embrace whatever age I’ve attained as a sign I’m still alive. And that’s a good thing!

Happy birthday to me!

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:

flowers5

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:

flowers11
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

flowers9

flowers4

…to white, purple and pinky-mauve…
flowers10

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.

flowers6

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.

DSC_1596

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.

DSC_1590

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