Old friend

Friendship (not counting family) and the term has woven its way in and out of my thoughts the last few years. Thinking about old and not so old friendships that have ended, I’ve accepted and made peace with. The nostalgia for old friendships I continue – distantly – because we are different or geographically apart but still wish each other well. And then there are tentative new friendships being made in the middle of midlife (and again somewhat distant because: tentative and midlife). And then of course, if we are of a certain age: the digital form of friendships that manifest through that addiction to social media (a mixed bag of meaning I won’t even try to dissect here).

Fragments of botanicals collected for my January 2023 24 days of drawing.

All of the above are describing friendships of the human kind and finally after all these years, I have learned there is no perfect human friendship for me. I am no perfect friend.

When we recognize something in ourselves, we can choose to be curious about it, question it and either change or continue as before. I think I am changing my perspective on my human friendships. It is a work in progress.

For this month’s work, I created a pigment boiled from lilac leaves and branches and included traditional drawing media.
We have Burr oak in the neighbourhood so experimenting with oak gall.
And then a new social media friend inspired me to dye some wool with some alum spiked lilac pigment.

Work in progress. It was surprising to me the other day that I used the term old friend not to describe a human. Nor a beloved pet or plant. I used it to describe my relationship with art making. And it surprised me a bit and took me aback.

I have not been a perfect friend to my art practice either. And YET, it has been the most loyal companion all these years. I have slagged it/minimized it/and tried to turn my back on it. And YET, there it is: ready to bring me equanimity.

So, I’ve been continuing to visit it. Sometimes for only a minute, sometimes as long as 20 or 30 minutes a day, for 24 days out of the month. This year, my year will be framed in a circle. I aim to try to use a botanical pigment each month and draw from the natural world (which is also an old friend and one I visit less frequently).

I’m pleased with this first 24 days of drawing. It is nostalgic (the lilac originates from my parents’ property and those lilacs originated from my mom’s grandfather). It is familiar (I’ve had an interest in drawing plants on and off for over 30 years). It is new (experiments with different drawing media and how they interact with each other).

24 days of drawing: January 1-24, 2023. 15.3cm diameter. Mixed media. B. Wanhill

My old friend art making: thank you for sticking with me.

December in a hurry

On this last day of the year (that is being celebrated in our household in a pleasantly low key and nothing special kind of way) I wanted to share what I have been up to in December from a mark making perspective.

I again thoroughly enjoyed the 2022 instalment of #abstractadvent and completed another winter print for card giving. In both works I used an “ink” inspired by a recipe in Jason Logan’s book Make Ink. The acorn cap ink (minus the metal) from December 2021 held up well in the fridge and was useful in adding a sepia tone to parts of each image.

Best wishes in 2023!

All images, B. Wanhill December 2022.


Galanthus nivalis, April 4, 2018. iPhone 6S, edited in Photoshop CC

We recently returned from the West Coast of British Columbia and were pleased to see the 9 inch ice ruts on our neighbourhood street had mostly melted away. However, the weather had also turned and we touched down to -9ºC and more snow.

On a quick walk about the backyard to see how much of the 6 foot snow pile had melted, I was astonished to find some anemic snowdrops frozen in place in the sudden change of temperature. (They are growing in a little alcove between our house and the fence so this area has a warmer microclimate.)

In the years that I’ve gardened in this variable urban prairie environment, I have learned that spring bulbs are hardier than their dainty appearance and I shovelled some snow on them and let them be.

The last couple days it has been warm enough for that snow to melt and they have emerged again. Today I documented them before returning them to snowy solitude. (Tomorrow’s forecast is a low of -19ºC with snow and a windchill of -25ºC.)

It has become an annual tradition to document the Galanthus that appear in my tiny garden each spring. They are not as lush and prolific as their Coastal cousins, but they remind me to try to be a little more purposeful and graceful under trying circumstances and they are hopeful signals that nature will let spring arrive eventually no matter how much we want her to hurry.

(I was given the opportunity to temporarily try out Photoshop CC and used it to edit the above image. It has been over 15 years since I have used this program. An amateur attempt at relearning an old skill – there are too many other things to do to worry about perfection! Below are the original unedited photographs.)

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