by Jan Kraus
As the LUNA art show deadline approaches, excitement, doubts, and pressure mount. Time seems to have flown by much too quickly this year.
For the last eight months, LUNA has been working toward producing an art show to support ravine conservation efforts at the Toronto Botanical Garden (TBG) in time for the fourth annual Urban Ravine Symposium. This small group of dedicated artists have been making regular visits to the Wilket Creek Ravine to sketch, paint, draw, photograph, and ponder the ever-changing rhythms of the ravine.
When I had to look up the correct spelling of rhythm I was intrigued by how well the word describes my feelings about being part of this project. Rhythm: a regulated succession of strong and weak elements or of opposite or different conditions, regular recurrence or patterns in time, cyclical natural phenomena from microseconds, to minutes, to hours, to years or longer.
I feel so fortunate to be a part of this group. I have learned so much about the rhythms of the ravine and the impact the Toronto ravine system has on the health of our city. I met amazing people and had some very interesting experiences. For instance, in March, for the first time in my life, I sat on a solid sheet of ice beside the creek to sketch the beginning of the spring run-off. It was an exhilarating albeit cold experience. Because I felt like others were depending on me, I didn’t use the weather as an excuse to stay home. Some days the weather was snowy, or drizzly, or sunny, or rainy, or hot and humid. But not once did I regret a trip to the ravine. In fact, I truly enjoy the less-than-perfect-weather days for the different perspective they give me. I am excited by the elements and by different conditions: rhythm.
Early this year a particular group of rocks captured my attention. Every time I’m in the ravine I check them out and frequently sketch or paint them. I’ve marveled at how the rising and falling water has changed the stream around them over the past few months. A near-by tree I sketched is precariously leaning into the stream, and I wonder how long before it falls into the water. Another tree appears to be hanging in mid-air, but as I work on painting it I discover it is being held in place by the roots of two other trees behind it. I see new life sprouting out of a fallen tree, the rhythm of life and death and life again.
Sharing the challenges of working plein air with other artists is very inspiring. Whenever two or more of us are available on the same day we normally chat for a bit then go our separate ways to work. We meet later to share our day’s work and compare notes on the process. We’ve shared art supplies and resource materials. We share excitement about newly acquired knowledge. We share thoughts and feelings about the ravine. Each person brings a unique perspective, and I often marvel at details others see that I have totally missed. As I critiqued my own work, my colleagues encouraged me to see what I thought were the weak elements as an energizing part of my painting, the rhythm of strong and weak elements. They help me be a little less nervous about publicly showing my ravine art. And so, I am excited to be a part of the LUNA art show as we celebrate the Wilket Creek Ravine and honour the many ways in which the ravine supports our city.