The Ramblings of Joy Laking

Nova Scotia Artist, Joy Laking, posts ramblings while she's travelling and painting in South America.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Painting on Denman Island July 6, 2022

 Yesterday, it was pouring rain, so I decided it was the day to do a closeup of foxgloves. I have no idea where this painting is going or if it will resolve. This maybe isn’t ideal for watercolours since going backwards and redoing something is not usually possible, however it keeps my interest high as I ammaking constantly making creative decisions. We were going to go to Chickadee Lake in the interior of Denman Island at four but it was still raining. At 5, it stropped raining and off we went. I had exactly one hour to paint. I followed my own good advice (that I often don’t take) and started with a vertical ink planning sketch of some big trees covered with mossy mounds of green. I realized that this wasn’t going to allow me to have any fun painting the lake and I did a second planning sketch (the horizontal). After that I was off. Sitting in Susie, this is what I captured in one hour. I know that I can finish it when I have time.

On the way back, Rosie stopped at a free shop to drop off some stuff. We should have one of these in Portaupique. Open twenty-four hours a day with no staff, you can drop off or take anything. We dropped off some stuff and left with an almost new stay and play, a couple of pink and green glass plates and I got two books to read on the way home, Ursula Hegi’s Stone from the River and Linden MacIntyre’s The Bishop’s Man!
Then we returned to Yolande and Rosie’s where they treated “us” (Robynne Murray a forever friend of Yolande’s and her partner, Jan, are with us from Colorado) to a wonderful supper of Yolande’s arugula rice balls and this gorgeous and delicious vegetarian sushi that is make on Denman. And Finlo was as sweet as ever, as we all took turns getting smiles.
Jim Wyatt, Serena Lewis and 82 others

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

March 19, 2022

 Had a painting week up the shore in Fox River. Lots of ideas cooking. AND I had a chance to try out my new painting chair, Susie. One of her namesakes,  Susan Paterson was with me and figured out a way to lower the front of the seat of the chair!


Thursday, February 3, 2022

February 3, 2022, Where do painting ideas come from?

Where do painting ideas come from?

Finding a painting idea is certainly a big part of the entire creative process.  In the summer, when I go out on location, I get to the end of our lane and then I  decide, do I feel like turning right or left?   I drive along, looking, waiting, thinking about.  Eventually, something tweaks my interest.  By the time, I realize, that the subject is worth investigating, I usually have to turn the car around.  I take some pictures of what appealed to me and if it still seems to have potential to excite me,  I do a 5” x 7” sketch, in ink and watercolour. This could take five or fifteen minutes.  Every time, I try to jump right into a painting and skip the preliminary sketch, I regret not having the lighting and the composition figured out.

In the winter, between paintings, the process is the same but different.  I just finished three large oils last week and at the time I thought, I never wanted to do oils again; too much time and mess. I looked through several smaller unfinished paintings from the past year but none of them excited me and so I put them aside until they do.    For the past couple of days, I sat and looked through photos, again waiting for something to call out to me.  A very few of them, I cropped and thought about.  Two appealed to me for completely different reasons. For both of these, I started a 7 x 9 inch watercolour. Because  I used the backs of some old reject serigraphs, which is great cotton watercolour paper and free,  I could use several sheets per idea, as I first of all play with the composition doing multiple  quick ink sketches. Once the composition was decided upon, I started on fresh paper in pencil.  For the rest of the day, I played with these two ideas.  Eventually, the one of pink flamingos  decided that it wanted to be an airy precise watercolour on smooth watercolour paper.  The other, some of the five islands in autumn, decided itself that it wants to be another large oil!

Monday, January 31, 2022

Indian Harbour Jan 30, 2022

 Every time, I drive from Peggy’s Cove up towards Head of Saint Margaret’s, I am gob smacked by this view of Indian Harbour. There is something that astonishes me about the balance of  rough foreground, leading down into the village and with the glorious sky and water and islands behind.

I thought that this painting was finished yesterday. This morning when I looked at it, I decided that the closed in window and the yellow door on the right need to be a regular window and darkened door and some of that yellow foliage needs to  extend up to the deck.  The chimney off the red building looks too much like a window on the garage and I will make it taller or shorter of move it.  The windows on the sunny side of all the buildings  need to sparkle more and be more defined  to distinguish them from the dull windows on the shadow sides of buildings.   As well,  I have made a conscience decision to stop polishing the foreground foliage, and leave it just with the rough flat colour and texture.

Paintings always progress in a series.  One painting leads to the next.  In this case, I started last spring with a watercolour of Prospect, dealing with the sky, the village, the rough autumn foreground.  The next painting was a larger oil of this same view. Then, I did a vertical watercolour of Indian Harbour dealing with the same three areas at the same time of year.  While working on this watercolour,  I decided to do a larger horizontal oil painting of Indian Harbour so that the three areas; background, mid ground and foreground are all the same physical size. 

The bend in the road on the left is absolutely crucial as it curves up from foreground into  the village. The village is distinctively human made; rectangular buildings and lines and shapes all of which I love. The foreground is a foil to this precise regularity with its twisted branches  and dark strong irregular areas of colour. The foreground island and the lighthouse are the transition from village to the god green and blue mounds of ocean and sky. 

As an artist, it is crucial to look with your heart.  It is more than just noticing, it is more a basking in the glory that is our world. 

January 31, 2022, Alexander Fawcett

 It is with a tinge of sadness that I announce the official retirement of my beloved Alexander Fawcett. 

Alex was first spotted at a sale of belongings at Melissa Beattys house on Economy Point. I remember waiting on Melissas lawn in the autumn chill with a horde of would-be shoppers. The  salt marsh, across from the house was golden.  At 10 am, the doors to the ornate, old house opened and everyone rushed in.  I headed directly to the kitchen, hoping that Melissas wood range would be for sale.

Our house, in Portaupique, was frigid in the winter.  When we first lived here, we got a beautiful green airtight Yotel stove to supplement the kitchen oil range.  That necessitated a new brick chimney. We were still  cold all winter. 

The next August, as we were driving to Jim and Elizabeth Campbell wedding in Baddeck,  we came across a stove shop. We came home with a beautiful black Morso stove for the dining room. It had  embossed squirrels and acorns and an elaborate black iron arch above the main stove that was supposed to provide even more heat. 

The following winter, we huddled next to Yotel or Morso. Both airtight stoves looked  beautiful, and easily held a fire over night but neither ever warmed the place up.

It was love at first sight when I saw Alexander Fawcett in Melissa Beatty’s kitchen. His pale yellow and green enamel glowed against the ornate metal trim. Two cast iron lid-lifters rose at angles from his shiny blackened cook top.  A water reservoir was on the right side next to the oven. His name, Alexander Fawcett was above the oven.  Not for sale” was scrawled in crayon on his large warming oven up top. Having the only thing I came for,not for sale”,  left me free to peruse all of the furniture in all of the rooms. Around me was a frenzy of buying. Several times, while I was contemplating the purchase of an upstairshall table, an antique bed, an oak sideboard, these treasures were purchased out from under me. Then I found myself back in the kitchen in front of a decrepit  pine kitchen cupboard that was missing its top doors and had been painted in copious layers of paint. One hundred and fifty dollars was marked on its price tag. 

If you dont want it, I will buy it,” said a voice over my shoulder. I immediately said I want it” and removed the price tag. I joined the long line up to give Don Fisher my $150. When paying for this dilapidated  treasure, I told him that I had really come to buy the stove. Well, I decided to keep it.” Don told me. 

Later that day, I went back to the sale with a truck to collect the pine cupboard. My then husband was not impressed. “You spent $150 on that,” he scowled. To be truthful, I wasnt sure why I had bought the old cupboard other than I had money in my pocket and I was caught up in the excitement. 

Layer by layer, I stripped the paint off the cupboard. The smell of the stripping chemicals meant that all of this had to done outside. When winter  set in, the doorless, stripped cupboard was relegated to the shop until it was again warm enough to work on finishing it. 

Several weeks after the auction, the phone rang and it was Don Fisher. Do you still want to buy that old cook stove?” “Yes, I do” and some how I came up with another $150.

Alexander Fawcett arrived in pieces and immediately replaced the oil cook stove in our kitchen. He did a yeomans job of warming the house, heating the hot water and cooking the food. I do admit that when making strawberry jam on a hot June day, none of this heat was appreciated. However, for most of the year, I lived in a very close radius to Alexander. Because Alexander threw copious amount of heat, he needed to be almost continually fed small chunks of wood. I would sit with my feet on a towel in the oven and baby Kelsey on my lap and I would keep the fire box stoked. 

Cooking on a wood stove is an adventure.The temperature fluctuates with the size,  dryness and amount of wood. Every day felt like a  dance, between my friend, Alexander, and me. 

Still wanting a warmer winter environment, our next purchase was a new basement for the house. Down came that new brick chimney so that we could have a  wood furnace. (Maybe we should have considered, insulation and double paned windows?) 

Eventually, Danica was born. With her came 220 wiring, (instead of the 15 amp service). Now, we could also have an electric stove, a washer, a dryer, a hot water heater and in door plumbing! Kelsey was thrilled when Gordon Lewis arrived with his backhoe to dig the “testic". 

If Danica had been born a boy, we were going to call her Tobin Alexander after our stove. I still cooked on Alexander when the weather was cool. I emptied his ashes, polished his shiny metal trim, washed his green enamel oven door and warming oven and blackened his big black iron top. 

Thirty years ago, right after my Dad died, I was not in the mood to think about Christmas. When reading the flyers, I had the idea of buying electronics as Christmas presents for all three kids. My husband thought that was awful and said that we should give Kelsey, Danica and Yolande materials to build a cabin. This sounded wonderful and the time had come for Alexander to have new abode. We spent one thousand dollars for the building materials, and one thousand for  Alexanders new insulated chimney on the cabin.

During the year of home schooling, we had many terrific school days in the cabin. When I woke up at five am, I would go down the path in the dark to light Alexander. Then cabin would be warm and cosy when we started school.  Some of the happiest times in my life were mini holidays when I joined my three kids for a night in the cabin. We played cards by lantern light, we cooked our supper on Alexander and then we climbed up into the loft and into our sleeping bags.  

For years now, I have tried to keep Alexander safe for having fires. Eventually, his oven collapsed and although he has decorated the cabin and held candles and shells, he is now officially being retired to fireless status on the kitchen porch. Here he will hold rocks and driftwood, bouquets of wild flowers, and glasses of wine. Alexander Fawcett will be polished, admired and his portrait will be painted. Yotel is also excited. He will escape his relegation to the shop and have a new life in the cabin. 

Saturday, January 8, 2022

January 6, 2022

This painting is still not finished.  Every day, I think it will be basically complete and then I can start the  fun part, the picky details, such as putting the far shore a little more in the background, giving high lights to the glass bottles, putting shine on the little white pitcher.  However, after each day of painting, it still needs just one more day.  This will be the first painting finished in 2022  and I will post it one more time when it actually is finished.  It has really been fun to do.   I started this painting in late autumn, after several killing frosts when I found a few cosmos still surviving in the garden at the end of our lane..   I just started playing. First of all, I started by painting the cosmos in oil on a red background. Then I spied a few nasturtiums that were still in  bloom at Kelsey’s and I brought them home and added them. The next day, Jim picked me this last white rose on the bush outside our dining room window and I added it.   Usually I have an idea of what a painting will be about.  This painting is completely different from the way I usually work.

Early in 2021, I finished two watercolours of our kitchen window and the view.  I had the idea in 2020 and I drew the first watercolour on paper and painted only the nasturtiums and sweet peas while I actually had the flowers.   I could hardly wait for winter to come  to be back in the studio  to finish it.  (Lots of times, I dread, moving back into the studio after a summer of trying to capture the beauty outside.) The first watercolour, worked out just the way, I intended. This doesn’t often happen.  I enjoyed doing it so much, that I was sad that it was finished so  I immediately started a second version, this time a vertical.  Both of these paintings, also featured the small polymer clay angel that Danica made for me. Since I enjoyed doing these two paintings so much, I eventually decided that this new oil  painting would also be about my kitchen windowsill with Danica’s angel and with a really high tide and in autumn. 

I just kept gradually started adding stuff. We still had tomatoes ripening on the counter so they were the next thing in.  Then the small Bolgatanga basket, a birthday present from a friend, Serena and used daily all summer to collect garden produce was painted. 

Bolgatanga, Ghana, was a place Jim and I visited several years ago. One of the highlights of this trip was watching and sketching the villagers as they created baskets. Everyone loved getting a sketch of themselves. The land was a dusty barren, parched by the intense heat. Men, cross-legged on the ground, wove the bases of the baskets. Young women, several nursing babies, wove the sides. Old women  and some of the children chewed strips of  reed for loops and handles. Everywhere, children raced and played. At one point, in front of the entire village, a woman presented me with a bowl of water.  Thinking that they were going to offer me food and that I should wash my hands, I put my hands in the water.  Everyone roared with laughter.  They had offered me special welcome water, and instead of drinking it, I had sullied it with my hands.   I was actually very happy that I made this faux pas, because if I had known, I would have taken a drink of the water to be polite and  who knows how sick it would have made me. 

Next to the basket in the painting, I needed something that was vertical and shiny.  Many years ago, a close friend, Susan,  was visiting from Toronto with her three sons.  Findlay, the middle child, presented us with this amazing plastic CN tower that he had chosen for us.   I have treasured this little tower and the memory of its presentation.  Findlay, a  wonderful boy  born with many health problems, died while he was still a college student. My world is a better place because of knowing Findlay. He  embraced each day no matter what the challenges.   This is the first time, I have found a painting in which to feature our golden CN tower.

My Dad always loved blue glass. And I do too.  Perhaps this runs in families?  When Kelsey was seven, all he wanted for Christmas was a blue glass Milk of Magnesia bottle that we had seen at our local antique shop in Glenholme for fifteen dollars.   I thought, I love that bottle too, I will just go to a pharmacy and buy one.  Of course, Milk of Magnesia was no longer sold in blue glass bottles and so I went back to the antique store and bought it for Kelsey.  Several years later, my friend, Laurie, will remember the day I dashed in front of a bulldozer in Bermuda to collect a Milk of Magnesia bottle that was poking out of the excavation.

As those of you who follow me along know, I  had a wonderful loving Grandmother.  The little white pitcher is something that an old lady gave Grandma when she was child.  The tiny jet and ivory cameo above the angel was carved by my gandmother’s

grandfather who were jet carvers in Whitby, England. Grandma’s family was booked to move to Canada in the spring of 1912.  Just prior to leaving, the Titanic sunk. Even though her family had sold off all of their belongings, they thought  that if the unsinkable boat could sink, their ship might also suffer the same fate and they stayed in England for another year.  When they did finally emigrate, a year later,  my grandma was thirteen and she wore this cameo. The ship didn’t sink.  It became her lucky piece. I wore it for all of my high school and university exams and the luck continued.  When my youngest daughter, Yolande, graduated from NASCAD, I thought that this little piece of art carved by her ancestors was the perfect graduation  present for her. Yolande sent me a photo of it, so I could include it in this painting.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Word Picture June 4, 2021


Word Picture June 4 2021


The air is still and moist.

Etched into a lush green carpet of lawn,

The pond is a dark sombre mirror 

Polka dotted with lily leaves.

It is the magnolia that is magnificent

With its deep magenta buds,

That fade into enormous pale pink blossoms

 as they open for business.


Viridian green, olive green, sap green

Satiate the meadow.

To the west, the hawthorn,

Redeems itself in its one week of glory.

Even the cedar and  apple trees

Are now in their summer foliage.

A glowing yellow patch of wild mustard

 stands in for the forsythia and maples 

that have also rejoined  the status quo.


Framed by dark green silhouettes of spruce

The distant salt marsh is 

Delineated only by the island grave of beloved pets

And the soft hummock of Acadian Dyke.

Beyond, a light ashen veil obliterates

The bay,  the far shore and the sky.


This sets direction  for our day.

We push aside the future of

Old age, pandemics, global warming,

And  savour the tones and textures of today.