Friday Two Cents: A New Québec Inspired Build




As I stated in my previous posts, I have been engaged in several artistic projects this Christmas season. One of them was to create something new for my Christmas town. A couple of weeks ago I mounted my Christmas town in the school. I started this tradition about 7 years ago at the same time when my niece arrived. I created the Christmas town several years earlier and over the span of about 10 years I added new buildings and other items to create a 19th century Dickens style town. Every building in the town is hand painted by me and I even created several unique pieces including the hill and the castle on it.

In the past few years I have added little things to the town such as trees, horses, people and a flying Santa sleigh and reindeer. Yet I have not created any new buildings, well until this year. Drawing on my experiences on my Québec trip this summer, I was inspired to create a traditional Québec home and a flying canoe or ‘la chasse-galerie’.
Stage 1) I began by creating the basic shape of the building using cardboard. I wanted a single story with two chimneys and a front and back veranda. This is typical of many early homes in Québec. The front slope of the roof is longer and curved but also the side of the roof is almost flush with the building.
Stage 2) I then got plaster of Paris and coated the entire cardboard building. It did not look pretty but I knew that I would be carving the home shape and details once the plaster dried. This stage was the most time-consuming and labour intensive. I could not simply scrap of chisel away. I had to be careful not to press too hard or the plaster would crack. Once I got the basic shape of the building I carved out little details such as the doors, windows, chimneys, verandas and a pine tree.
Stage 3) Once the carving was done, I painted the entire piece with white acrylic paint. While that was drying, I got some Fimo clay and began moulding a canoe with people in it. I modeled it after many images of the Voyageurs from early French Canadian history and culture. Fimo clay is malleable at first but it becomes hard once you bake it in the oven.

Moulding a flying canoe or ‘la chasse-galerie’ using Fimo clay

Stage 4) I placed the clay flying canoe in the oven for about 30 minutes; I then continued to paint the building. Typically the early buildings used stone from the indigenous rocks of Canada. A lot of it was grey and irregular shaped. I painted this onto the exterior of the building with other details of the tree, doors and windows. I then used a clear acrylic varnish to paint the snow areas to give it a semi-gloss look.
Stage 5) Once the flying canoe cooled down I painted it and the people using acrylic paint. I painted the canoe to represent a birch bark canoe. I then painted the paddles and people accordingly. If you look close there are 7 people, one in the back steering and 6 paddling. As well I painted them with beards and wearing furs.
Stage 6) After the paint dried I wrapped a white pipe cleaner around the canoe and placed the ends in the chimneys of the building. I drilled small holes in the chimneys earlier to accommodate this idea.
I then placed the new building in my town with the flying canoe for the entire school to see. Many of the French Canadian teachers recognized the flying canoe or ‘la chasse-galerie’. Everyone loved the new Québec inspired addition to the Christmas town.  

Art inspiration: My Nativity Project, My Heritage



In the last post I mentioned that I finished creating my nativity scene for the outside of my home. In total it took about 3 weeks of work to finish the project but I am more than happy with the final results.

After drawing the images onto the primed piece of wood I began the process of painting the characters. Just like any art project I thought of layers and what colours would be in the back and which ones in front. I began painting them with their main colour and the background. Painting this scene I constantly remembered the amazing frescos that Michelangelo painted. I wondered what he thought of as he painted those amazing scenes and I could not be more humbled and inspired to do my best as I painted my scene using his technique.
In the middle of my painting I created the top part of the scene with the remainder of the wood. The top part would be modeled on images of buildings from Jerusalem and places I saw in Malta on my numerous visits. I measured, cut and primed the piece as I did with the lower part/stable. Once dry I painted it the same colour as the background of the stable. I added a few details to make it my realistic such as cracks and brickwork to make it look old and weathered.
The top of the stable was relatively easy to paint in comparison to the lower piece with the characters. For obvious reasons it required extra care and more details. In the final stage you can see that I added homes and buildings, which were indicative of the Bethlehem area, in the background of the lower piece of the stable.
Once I finished painting the characters I then attached the upper piece of the stable to the lower part. I used left over wood as reinforcement with wood screws to attach the pieces together. I then attached a 2”x4” to the lower piece as a stabilizer so it can stand with some support. Once attached, I gave the entire nativity scene a coat of clear varnish to help protect the painting from the elements.
With all this complete I finally mounted the finish nativity scene onto my veranda. The interesting thing is that once it was up my family commented that in Malta the nativity scene is the centre of our Christmas celebrations and not the Christmas tree as it is in most of North America.
Here I am in Canada and I do have a tree but I have always had a nativity scene in my home. Christmas is not Christmas without a nativity scene. Now that I have one outside I feel more connected to my cultural heritage than before. Perhaps it has something to do with my visit to Québec this summer. There I felt connected to the culture both through my knowledge as well through the people I interacted with. I saw first hand the importance and beauty Canadian and Québec culture has to offer. I discovered that this is apart of my Canadian heritage but I also have my Maltese heritage that my parents gave me. The two are not separate but intertwined within the country I live in and within me.

Art Inspiration: Québec Trip / The Art Of Montréal



Like any other city Montréal has its own style of artistic expression you just have to look for it. Outside the museums the city is full of examples, through the people and architecture that make it so unique.

The funny thing is that as I was exploring the city we went into a building that has the Barbie Expo on display. This is a collection of Barbie dolls from different places around the world, scenes and eras. I wasn’t into the exhibit, my friend liked it and I have to admit that many of the dolls looked like some of the famous people you may know. They had Elizabeth Taylor from Cleopatra, Jack Sparrow and even James Bond.
Yet I continued to a famous location in Montréal that has a lot of significance. The Bell Centre where the Montréal Canadians play. They are a historic hockey franchise that has too many years of amazing history to place in this blog. It was just amazing to see all these wonderful tributes to things I remember as a child or read about.
Walking along these streets seeing all these buildings you can see the culture of the city come to life.
Even along the Old port of Montréal you can see art. They showed faces of people on trees across the port. These faces were projections on the trees as they moved across them.
Montréal was filled with art. One just has to slow down and enjoy the moment.

Friday Two Cents: Québec Trip / The Citadel And Old Québec


On the last day I spent in Québec I wanted to visit the Citadel of old Québec and the fortifications. Because this had a historical and military aspect I went alone. My friend knew about the history and wasn’t too interested in the military aspect, but the main reason was because this part was very personal to me. The military is a very personal aspect of my life that only a select few know about and I allow in.

I have been to the Citadel on a previous trip to Québec but I still wanted to revisit the place and the history it inspires. Built in the mid-1800 due to the growing concern of American aggression, today it is still and active military base that is the ceremonial home of ‘Le Royale 22ieme Regiment du Canadais’ the Royal 22e Regiment of Canada. This royal regiment is made up of mostly people from Québec and has a glorious history dating back to its inseption in the First World War. I asked, but they were not sure, however I believe they are the only Royal regiment in Canada and perhaps the British Commonwealth that is fully French-speaking.
The Citadel is the ceremonial home of the regiment and they usually have a changing of the guard ceremony. Unfortunately it was raining therefore they had to cancel the ceremony, yet I did see it last time I was there. I went on the tour and the guide was very helpful and knowledgeable of the Citadel and regiment.
After I was able to have a tour of the Governor General’s resident within the Citadel. We were a small group and we were able to see the residence and the wonderful works of art collected over the years. One of the amazing pieces was a gift to the city of Québec on their 400th birthday in 2008, from the hometown of Samuel de Champlain in France. It is a nine-foot high recreation of Champlain’s notebook with drawings recreated from his own notebooks. It was an impressive piece.
Another historical aspect was that this was the location of the Québec conference in 1943 between F.D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and William Lyon Mackenzie King. This conference was to discuss strategy and tactics during World War Two including the Battle of the Atlantic. I had almost forgotten this historical aspect if it weren’t for a painting and photographs of the conference.
Once the tour was completed I went into the Royal 22e Regiment of Canada museum that was in the Citadel. There were many artefacts and it chronicled the regiment’s story from its inception. One of the artefacts was this Nazi eagle the regiment captured as a war prise during their campaign in the Netherlands. It is made of iron or steel and the pieces look to be forged into winged feathers and other elements of the bird. It may have been a symbol of power and hate but the artistry and craftsmanship to create this piece is astounding. The other aspect I enjoyed is that this eagle was taken as a war prise for their service in helping to liberate the Netherlands from a hostile invasion force. This trophy stands in the museum as a symbol of the regiments sacrifice in blood to help people they did not know.
The day was very much like that for me. Visiting the past to remind me how much people from Canada sacrified to help maintain the freedom we have and sometimes take for granted. A freedom I am truly grateful for and days like this one reminds me to never forget how much the cost of freedom really costs.

Friday Two Cents: Québec Trip / Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré And Area



Part of my trip to Québec was set aside for sight seeing the more scenic views of Québec and the surrounding area.

The first place my friend took me was to the famous and beautiful Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. Yet before we went to the basilica we went into the Cyclorama of Jerusalem. It is in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Québec beside the basilica. It is a cyclorama or a circular painting of the crucifixion of Jesus. In the painting it shows what Jerusalem may have looked like at the time of the crucifixion.

On permanent display at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré since 1895 the painting was painted in 1890 by Paul Philippoteaux, a famous panoramist from Paris, assisted by five other painters: Salvador Mège (1854–1915) and Ernest Gros, of Paris, Charles Abel Corwin and O.D. Grover of Chicago and Edward James Austen (1850–1930) of London. It measures 14 by 110 metres (46 ft × 361 ft) and it claims to be one of the world’s biggest circular paintings.
Cyclorama of Jerusalem, City of Jerusalem

Cyclorama of Jerusalem, City of Jerusalem

After I went to the basilica. Words cannot do the site justice on the size or sheer beauty I witnessed, both inside and out. One of the amazing facts about the basilica is all the miracles that have taken place on this site. There are two pillars as you enter with crunches, canes and notes saying how St. Anne has healed them. The architecture and art of the basilica is that of old cathedrals in Europe dating back hundreds of years. The original chapel was built-in 1658 but it has grown and was rebuilt after a fire to what is standing at present.
That was the highlight of the day’s journey but I was still able to take in a lot of sight seeing from Île d’Orléans, where I took some nice photos of Québec across the river. As well I went to see Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, where I witnessed a striking waterfall along the Montmorency River that flows into the St. Lawrence.
I had been to Québec before but this time I had a friend who played tour guide. I guess it true to have a local to help you to see the culture and feel of a place.

Art Inspiration: Québec Trip / Art Is Everywhere





When I went to Québec I was fortunate to go with someone who grew up there. I told them that I was in their hands and that they were my guides. They are aware that I love the arts and they took me to places in the Old City of Québec that had many artists and artisans.

Along Saint Paul Street there are many galleries and artisans that would satisfy any art enthusiast. I could not take too many pictures of the artwork but it was a fabulous experience non-the less. Another place I went to was Le Petit Champlain, a small market area just down the hill from the Château Frontenac. There many artisans, artists, cafes, restaurants and merchants come together.   It is a beautiful place that has the feel of an old world market. There were many things to see but I was very impressed by a glass blower. I was able to take some photos for I was mesmerised by the skill and craftsmanship of the master.
Yet there are times when I did not just take in the traditional art but the artistic beauty of nature. Near my friends family home, there are a lot of wooded areas where the city has kept it as natural as possible. There I enjoyed the natural beauty and I even was able to eat a few wild black berries as I walked along the path.
From the natural surrounding to something equally as lovely, we went for a road trip outside Québec City to a place called le Domaine à l’Héritage near Saint-Séverin de Beauce. It is a pristine garden set in the middle of the country where people are welcome to enjoy nature and the garden as classical music is played throughout. There I saw many people bring out their dinners and enjoy a picnic, as did we. The place has many tables and reclining chairs for people to stay, relax and enjoy each other’s company.
The thing I found amazing is how easily everyone simply talked to one another. Strangers having conversations about anything that came up with other strangers. This is where I realized the whole ‘Joie de vivre’ that is so present in the Québec culture. It is everywhere, in everyone. The sad true is that something like this garden could never exist near Toronto because I could see people ruining it. There, the people made sure they cleaned up after themselves and they were respectful to everyone there and the environment.
Everywhere I went in Québec I found art. In the trees, the water, the air and the people. This is what life should be like, the joy of life, the joy of living. Of all the things I learned and brought back from Québec this ‘Joie de vivre’ is what I want to continue in my life. Perhaps not in Toronto but wherever I go I will strive for my own ‘Joie de vivre’.

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