(Thanks to my mom, Sandy Goulding, for taking all of the photos featuring the festival in this entry, but mainly for hanging out with me all day and holding an umbrella over my canvas multiple times)
I was visiting my mom in Millbrook, Ontario a few weeks ago when I randomly leafed through her town’s paper and discovered an advertisement for the Cavan Painting Festival being held during Culture Days. I had just made the extended deadline to register for only $25 and figured it could be a lot of fun and a great way to get back into art now that I have more free time.
You see, at age 11 I had decided to be an illustrator and that I would attend Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. At age 17, right out of high school, I shocked myself by actually getting accepted into their competitive illustration program. The timing wasn’t right for me and I declined the offer (something that I hoped wouldn’t be a mistake), but not before my parents bought me a school sweater that I still wear even though I never ended up going.
One year later my parents thought it would be a good idea for me to keep practicing my art and so I took a one-year certificate Foundations in Art and Design program at Durham College. I met a lot of really great people that I am still connected with and it rekindled my love for figure drawing. I graduated in the top three spots of my class and waited two years before deciding to go to university to study Communications.
Fresh out of a four-year UOIT degree, I am up to my eyes in job applications. I decided that one of the best ways to keep a level head about temporary unemployment is to not only start this blog, but to put more effort into my long lost love of visual arts.
This past summer I tried my hand at embroidery and was busy with artistic DIY creations for the wedding, but now I have time to paint.
The Cavan Painting Festival was a welcome distraction from my dog’s passing midweek. I gathered my supplies and busied myself with preparations for the event. It was a Plein Air festival which means that we were to paint outdoors, facing the changing weather conditions, altered sunlight, and moving objects within our views. As the weekend approached, the weather didn’t look promising which made me more nervous than I already was.
None the less, my wonderful mother stayed by my side the entire Saturday. I registered my blank canvases with the hosting gallery owner Valerie of the Cavan Art Academy at approximately 8:30am. My mom and I took my Suburu Forester to a spot that I’d scouted out during a Friday afternoon drive.
It was a beautiful misty morning which made for a nice division of background, middleground, and foreground. Mist might be pretty, but it also means that the weather is damp and cold – which means so were we. We opened the trunk door of the Forester, fixed a tarp to it and make-shift-weighted it down with a half full oil container and my mom’s chair. It was clearly a sound structure.
My first painting was done with acrylics on an 8×10 canvas in about two and a half hours. My body was warm enough, but my fingers were exposed for this entire period and were stiff as they gripped the paint brushes. The truly wonderful thing about small-town communities is the friendly vibe that exists on every street. I was parked on a one sided, no exit, street facing the land that gets used as the fairground in the spring. Each resident of the six houses came out to see what I was doing, to offer us tea and coffee, and one lady offered me the use of her bathroom. We welcomed the offer of tea and coffee, as well as a quick bathroom break that was needed after drinking a lot of tea! Millbrook residents remind me that some people are pretty amazing.
I titled this first piece Ruby’s Fairground, naming it after a beautiful and gentle red-golden retriever that I’d met before I had started painting. I fell in love with her and then near the end of my piece she was running in the field around the barns so I painted her in.
Mom and I packed up and took a warm lunch break at Madison’s Place downtown. An obvious regular and troublemaker was complaining loudly that they didn’t serve breakfast all day. After making a drawn out scene about it all to the waitresses and owner for several minutes he asked “what am I supposed to eat?!” I spoke up and declared “lunch!” The waitresses laughed and cheered for me, but the man looked less than impressed.
After lunch I decided on my next location, the corner of the current road detour due to road construction at the foot of their main street. This gave me a view of the post office, the back of the old city hall, and a partial glimpse of what was once the fire hall.
Millbrook is known for two obvious things, the local mill, and the brook on which it sits – I didn’t want to paint either of these things in order to try to stand out among 64 other artists competing. That’s right, 65 artists came out in the rainy weather to compete for the impressive grand prize of $1500.00, the 2nd prize of $1000.00, and the 3rd prize of $500.00 all sponsored by Galerie Q. Some people came all the way from British Columbia and Alberta!
The afternoon allowed for the weather to warm up a little and my fingers to be a less stiff. I painted on a larger 20×20 canvas in acrylics, this piece took me approximately four and a half hours to complete. As I was finishing the painting, large drops of rain splashed my canvas as my mother quickly tried to get an umbrella up (she was still with me, what mom-dedication eh?). I wrapped up, packed up, and headed to her house for the night. Boy was I tired and in pain, but I was proud of what I had painted.
Sunday was submission and jury day. Each artist was allowed to submit two pieces of any size and medium to be judged which means that there would be a lot of paintings to compete with. I wasn’t expecting to win, but my odds were better than winning the lottery.
The awards reception was held at Gallery Q and there was a really great turn out. I was glad that a young person won the grand prize as they probably needed the money the way that I do. I didn’t place, but am still happy with what I created and know that art is very subjective. I’m not traditional in my singing or painting so although my style may not have been what the judges were looking for, there may be a buyer for my pieces somewhere out there.
The festival was a good experience, mother nature helped make it an even more memorable time, and the artists that I met were really talented. I definitely recommend checking this event out next year as I know that this year’s success will lead to an annual favourite among the locals.
Collection of photos from the festival: