I’m home again and unpacking from the trip of a lifetime; my first destination watercolour workshop in Jasper, Canada. The workshop was everything I dreamed it could be when I started planning a year ago, and even more.
Twelve students from all over Canada, the United States and Belgium joined me at Pyramid Lake Resort for the two day workshop, in a beautiful space overlooking Pyramid Lake and Pyramid Mountain. We kicked off the workshop the night before it opened with an informal meet & greet at the Jasper Park Lodge’s Mountain Gallery, admiring paintings and sculptures by renowned Canadian artists, followed by dessert & drinks in the lounge upstairs.
The weather was cool and rain fell off and on, so our plans to paint outdoors were scuttled in favour of comfort, and through the two days of classes I addressed three common obstacles to painting loosely in watercolour, with a focus on encouraging students to trust the process and take risks in painting more boldly and expressively. On Wednesday, I painted a traditional mountain scene in watercolour, working from top to bottom (sky to foreground) and adding in smaller demonstrations in answer to questions from the group.
When the first day’s session ended, we went our separate ways to sightsee and enjoy Jasper. It’s such a beautiful park, with so many hikes, viewpoints and adventures within a 50 mile radius. It was hard to know what to choose to see! I didn’t do this trip alone; my friend Sarah joined me as workshop coordinator, and her daughter Lena and my daughter Samantha, both eleven and best friends, came along so we had fun in the evenings as we experienced the park together and some really fantastic meals at great restaurants in Jasper town.
We visited Athabasca Falls on Wednesday night, just as the golden late evening sun was hitting the mountains. The twenty minute drive is framed by mountains all the way, and once you reach the falls, you can hike down to the river at the base of the falls for another lovely view.
On Thursday, things got really exciting. Inspired by the sunlit verges along the road to the falls, I hadn’t taken any photos of the Indian Paintbrush flowers blazing along the roadside, so I demonstrated painting from memory. Painting a memory while it’s still fresh in your mind can be such a wonderful way of creating a focal-point based painting, as your memory holds the most important details and edits out the non-essentials, and during the demo the class joined in in suggesting ways to create the mood and effect of an alpine meadow, lit by sunlight. It was an interactive experience, and we all felt the magic as the painting came together.
The rest of the day flew by, with additional demonstrations on mountain scenes, painting water and of course a floral! Two days went by quickly and the last few hours were spent answering questions, exchanging emails and selling a few of my demonstration pieces from the workshop.
Demonstrating how to paint a waterfall.
It’s hard to express just what a wonderful experience this workshop was. To think that these students came such long distances to work with me in person is humbling and amazing. In my heart I am still just a quiet rural artist and it is such a gift to be trusted that working with me will be worth the trip. Meeting students who have up until now been just names (and sometimes faces) in my online classes and Facebook group was such a pleasure and I only wish we’d had a little more time to get to know each other even more.
We did make one more memory on the Friday following the class, giving the students the option to join us for a boat tour on Maligne Lake to the famous, iconic Spirit Island. I’ve always wanted to visit this little island, tucked away in the Rockies and providing inspiration for artists for decades, and the trip was the perfect time to do that. The morning started out cold and gloomy, and we packed umbrellas, but it cleared up enough to provide a lovely view of the island surrounded by glacial aqua lake waters.
Having my Sam along was a treat! She’s my middle child and a lovely artist and comedian, and her camera finger was busy clicking right beside me as I snapped my own photos. She enjoyed having her favourite, caesar salad at almost every meal.
Spirit Island really was as beautiful as the photos; it’s just a tiny island but such a gorgeous foreground to the mountains behind, and the water really is that blue!
Following the boat ride, I said goodbye to the last few workshop attendees, and Sarah and I took the girls on one more adventure before we parted ways; riding up the Jasper Skytram on Whistler’s Mountain. This is a trip you only want to take if the skies are clear enough to take in the beautiful mountain vistas, and when we reached town for lunch, the top of the tram was hazy with cloud. Fortunately, by one o’clock the cloud cover had risen and the tramway was visible, and we knew we’d get a good view.
The gondola ride is not for anyone with a fear of heights, but the swaying trip lasted less than 8 minutes and from the tram station, we did a little hiking to get an even better view. Layers came off as the hike got our body temperatures rising
I was both literally and figuratively on top of the world during this adventure in the Canadian Rockies! I’m so thankful to be able to live out dreams and share my love of watercolour, life and relationships, and sometimes I can see that the sky really is the limit. I can’t wait to spend time painting from my reference photos and memories of my week in Jasper, and I’m already thinking ahead to next year’s workshops.