The Ramblings of Joy Laking

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

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.






Tuesday, June 1, 2021

May 30, 2021

 Today’s musings on creativity and what creative people do to make art out of ideas.

I have always said that the most important characteristic that any artist must possess is tenacity or pigheadedness (no offence Wilbur).  We can’t decide to paint a wonderful painting or to write a wonderful book, we just have to start and invest our time with work  to try to drag an idea forward.  Creativity  is never easy.  I am convinced that the challenge is part of the process.   Just because there may be no money, or accolades from others doesn’t mean that the work isn’t worthwhile.  In fact, often it is the need for money or at least an end product that destroys the nebulous germ of a creative idea.  The freedom to mull over something and then to “play” with the ideas is where all art begins.

I have spent the past week sitting out by our small pond.  While Fen dug and ate the violets, I have tried to capture the beauty and abundance of the violets in watercolour.  The day I began this pond painting, I started  with the hosta  because it wasn’t quite fully out and I liked the tight shapes.   For many years, I thought that especially with watercolour, the entire plan of a painting should be decided ahead.  Now after experiencing the spontaneity and the ability to go backwards while working with oils and acrylics, I am using this approach in my watercolours as well.  By being willing to use my tiny scrubber brush and occasionally some white opaque paint, the creative decisions can be decided as the painting develops.

This morning, on our ramble with Fen, I was gobsmacked by the transient beauty of apple blossoms.  At the top of our path are three wild apple trees.  One was full of intense magenta pinks, another had buds that were subdued pale pink and the third was all white flowers with no hint of any colour.  When we returned from our walk, I was still thinking about apple blossoms. I gave myself permission to scrap what I had planned to work on today. Since apple blossoms seem to be calling out to me, I decided to listen and to try to capture their elusive beauty.

(This morning while painting these apple blossoms, I listened to Mary Haynes interview Amy Shearn on CBC Tapestry.  I agree with everything this author said.  If you are interested in the above thoughts on creativity, you might also want to listen to this podcast which is the first thirty minutes of Tapestry from May 21.)

June 1, 2021


Every Morning for the past couple of months I have been starting the day by reading one poem a day from the new collection “While Crossing the Field” by Deborah Banks (published Pottersfield Press 2020). I have decided that this is the way I love to savour poetry, one each day with time between  to savour the images and ideas.  It’s been a long while since I have been really been inspired by poetry.  This collection is marvellous with just the  perfect amount of description and always leaving me with a thought-provoking resolution.


As a young child, I delighted to my Grandfather reciting Robert’s Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee”.  One of the highlights of my trip to the Yukon with Jim was going to Lake Lebarge.


 In high school, I was besotted with Dylan Thomas, reciting “Under Milk Wood” (“never should have married- if she didn’t have to”) and  I loved Thomas’s “Altar-wise by Owl-light”. Every Christas when my children were little, I read them “A Child’s  Christmas in Wales”.


In University, I delighted in the quirky writing of  Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”.  


Now for many years, I have let poetry disappear from my life.  I myself write word pictures, my attempt to capture beauty with words instead of paint.  I occasionally write rhyming verse to celebrate an occasion.  But I haven’t given other poet’s my full appreciation as I raced from one passage to another, not lingering to absorb the resonance.  With Deborah Banks collection, I am again excited about poetry.  It is like a huge gift to anticipate discovering the entire genre of poetry in small daily bits.  Of course, I will never get through very much poetry with only one or two selections a day, but I also know that I won’t run out of this pleasure in my lifetime.  So all of my other friends who are poets (Rosalee Peppard,  Sheree Fitch, Harry Thurston, Lesley Choyce, Rita Wilson) are next on my list!!!  And although I am a trying hard to help my friend Laurie, make the the Elizabeth Bishop House sustainable, I haven’t given Bishop’s  poetry close attention.  She’s on my list too.



Loons in April By Deborah Banks (shared with permission)


At last the loons have returned to the land.

Quietly coupled, they drift on a soft wake.

I have missed their hollowed winnowing

and the weighted aftereffects of it,

how my life in those moments is enlarged

and diminished simultaneously.

The riddling universe is asking us

to consider this sharp duality.

Both moments are the other and neither.

the loss in the loon’s call and what is found

in the residue of the silence after,

the deep wrinkles growing in my skin

and the fact that it does not matter-

only the lake echoes now and always.


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

 Memoir May 19, 2021


The painting, “Blue Taffeta with Flowers” hangs in our upstairs bathroom above the painting I featured yesterday of “Grandma and Mrs. Biggs”.  This painting features a photo of my Grandmother, as a young woman, a couple of old jars AND a dark blue taffeta skirt with pink paper flowers.  The taffeta came first.  I was visiting my sister and she said that she had an old evening skirt of my mother’s in her kid’s dress up boxes.  “Is it dark blue and shiny?” I asked.  When she said “yes”, I immediately claimed ownership of it and brought it home with me.  


When I was nine, I took piano lessons from Miss Dillon, our church organist.  She was a brutal teacher and I learned so much. The hardest part for me was walking to and from my lessons in the dark.  I was scared to death of rabid foxes and had to carry a big stick, just in case.  I remember running from street light to street light. By Christmas, I was playing Christmas Carols with two hands and that spring I got a starring role as Mother Nature in Miss Dillon’s annual operetta.  I don’t remember the song I sang but I do remember my costume. My Mom  cut down the blue taffeta evening skirt that she had made for herself for New Year’s Eve before she was married. She sewed pink paper flower around the hem.   I remember the lights shining on the skirt as I swirled and sang on stage. It was beautiful.  The next year, I change music teachers.  I walked in day light to Mrs. Newell’s.  She was a sweet, loving wonderful person. I never again was pushed to excel at music.


And the little photo in the painting, is  one of my wonderful Grandmother, Lily,  as a teenager.  Everyone in my Mom’s family had large noses.  (Another story I was repeatedly told was that when I was born everyone marvelled and laughed over my tiny  nose, the spitting image of my Dad).  I still remember on my first painting trip to England, admiring the giant noses on most of  the English people.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

 Memoir May 18, 2021

Grandma and Mrs. Biggs

This painting brings back so many memories.  It hangs in our upstairs bathroom.  My sister doesn’t think it is appropriate to sit knee to knee with my Grandma and her friend Hattie Biggs  but I just love to see this painting each and everyday.  This painting was in my 1989 exhibition at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.  I remember the curator of my exhibition didn’t want my paintings of people in the show as she felt they weren’t good enough.  I persisted perhaps because I was used to a husband not liking what I was painting.  I have always felt that artists have to be completely pigheaded.  What we paint and how we do it is the essence of art and it is really all we have to give.

This is my Grandparent’s living room at 196 Roger’s Road, Hamilton Ontario. I love to see their “modern” sofa and the little cushions that helped make it comfortable.  The only thing I left out was the large painting done by my Grandmother’s brother that hung on the wall behind as I felt it made the painting stronger and more harmonious

My Grandma didn’t whistle or tell stories or play the harmonic.  She didn’t grow giant tomatoes and she didn’t drive. She wasn’t interested in learning stuff.  She did love playing games with me and even though she was deaf, she loved to sing with us on the family car rides.  My Grandmother loved.  That is exactly what she did best.  She loved everyone. 

 She loved my Grandfather. Just before the first world war, her family moved from England to Hamilton Ontario. My grandmother was thirteen and her sister Martha was fifteen and they went to work in a knitting factory.  When she was twenty the war was over and after church one Sunday, Jack, my grandfather, who had been a Canadian foot soldier in France,  asked her father if he could walk Lily home from church. 

 “No” my Grandmother’s father said.  

“You can walk Martha (her unmarried older sister) home from church”. 

“But it is Lily that I want to walk home” replied my Grandfather.

My Grandmother told me about my Grandfather getting down on his knees to help her her boots.  They walked home from church together.  A few months later they were married  My Grandmother wore a beautiful new suit and a hat trimmed with flowers. After the church service,  they had a small family luncheon at her parents home to celebrate and then Lily and Jack went together to buy stove pipe for their new apartment.

“ I had to marry him, my Grandmother always said

”or I would never have gotten to see him.” 

 My Grandfather worked sixty hours a week at Westinghouse as draftsman and took night school courses, five nights a week!

 MAY 16, 2021

This morning, I packed my chair with art supplies. Then  Fen and I ambled down to a favourite stump next to our little cabin by the river. I have forgotten my water contain and tissue.  I use the lid off my water bottle and my sweater sleeve.  I soak in the beauty with paint and words.

Next to the salt marsh,

My old stump glows in dappled sun light.

There is the soothing endless gurgle of river.

Swaying above are the white blossoms and golden leaves of

an amelanchier; chuckley pear.

Crows screech by.

A woodpecker taps on a still standing, 

Dead or dying spruce.

A tiny black and white female warbler scampers up a tree.

Her nest is probably hidden on this forest floor.

My stump is gradually decaying 

Into the fallen leaves, needles, cones and roots.

Bits of mottled mauve bark have pealed away

Leaving crumbling orangey pulp 

That provides new homes for mosses;

Shaggy  olive green, 

Tiny dots of blue green,

Or rounded lumps of bright yellow green,

Rain and roots burrow into every crevice.

A tiny spruce seedling is also growing out of my stump,

One last gasp for life from a dead tree.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Just 19, 2020 techniques for last three paintings

Since I graduated from University in 1972 with a Fine Art Major, I have been teaching myself watercolour.  Because I didn’t have any watercolour teachers or books, I developed my own style. Instead of the usually watercolour approach of light washes working towards the darks, I started with the darks. I found that with one layer of dark over the white paper, the darks were more intense and luminous.  Also by working towards the whites, there was the maximum range of contrast because often the highlights of the painting were just the white paper.  My compositions were always well planned with small sketches proceeding the paintings. The paintings themselves were started with a pencil drawing. The paint handling was tidy and direct.

Recently I finished a watercolour of flowers that I didn’t preplan. I started in the middle and just gradually added flowers.  This was both exhilarating and worrisome because I was making composition decisions all the way through the painting.  I wasn’t sure I could pull it all together. The paint handing though was my usual dark to light with a very controlled approach. 

 When I finished this, I started a small oil painting out by our pond.  I pushed and pulled and eventually the painting came together together.

 Now I have used this oil painting approach in my current watercolour.  Instead of preplanning the composition, I just started painting.  In this case, I started with the two lilies in the foreground.  Because I started with the lights and no drawing and not being sure of what the background would eventually be, some of the petals were muted and dull.   Instead of using my scrubber to go backward, this time I am using white Pepeo gouache, some times alone and sometimes mixed with watercolour or Winsor and Newton gouache.   There is much charm and stress by doing a painting this way.  I am engaged artistically and also worried all the way through.  Here are the results.