Climbing the Skies, the Roughness: Painting and Cycling

Now this is not about cycling mountains, because honest, I haven’t cycled up a high, long steep mountain on a bike yet.

Strange for someone who lived within sight of mountains in Vancouver.  But I’m willing to bet you, I’m like  many Vancouverites who have never biked any mountain either.  Still it is strange, for a cycling enthusiast like myself.  I probably overthink this.

But that’s less important than doing something to awaken my slumbering Muse.

Climbing Sunlight and Roughness. Mixed media- watercolour block ink, acrylic. 2012. By J.Chong
Climbing Sunlight and Roughness. Mixed media- watercolour block ink, acrylic. 2012. By J. Chong. Needs to be seen on screen, at some distance away.

So after nearly 3 years, I pulled out a hodge-podge pile of block prints, a small stretched canvass and poured a trickle of acrylic matte glue into a yogurt container.  After a few hours of twisting, tearing and matching complementary tissue prints, a pseudo-painting of sorts emerged.  The first painting after no art touch, was like practicing piano – tentative tinkering , slightly shapeless and pallid.

Rainbow in Rocky Mountains. View from hiking trail along Tunnel Mountain. Banff National Park, Alberta 2012. Photo by J. Chong
Rainbow in Rocky Mountains. View from hiking trail up Tunnel Mountain. Banff National Park, Alberta 2012. Photo by J. Chong

Next day, another empty canvass was prepared with yellow swishes of acrylic paint wash. I wanted some bright highlights to glow. I also wondered if a blue translucent tissue print was laid over yellow wash, would it merge into green?

Sun rise view. From summit of Mauna Kea, Big Hawaii Island 2002. Photo by J. Becker
Sunset, looking out from summit of Mauna Kea, a dead volcano with snow at the top. Big Hawaii Island 2002. Photo by J. Becker

If you look hard enough, yes there is some tiny transformation from blue to green, but silver ink in some overlapping prints has muted the green.  I was hoping for a stronger suggestion of vegetation. Instead there are sun-glow patches on dry rock that might have been touched by water a long time ago.

Abstract patterns in Nature: frozen winter inlet waters. Nunavut, Canadian Arctic 2003. Photo by J. Chong
Abstract patterns in Nature: frozen winter inlet waters. Nunavut, Canadian Arctic 2003. Photo by J. Chong

While this painting needs a defter touch on trimming print edges, it is the colour drama juxtaposed against shadows of more  canyons and mountains afar, that I hope to tease the viewer.

It is like a bike or hiking journey in some mountainous areas:  Every few metres along the way, there are ever-changing views of mountains, their siblings and shadows.  Each mountain comes into prominence one by one,  sometimes together, at different stages, under different sunlit intensities, different times of the day and different seasons of the year.

This sunlit glory and fog-snow swathed stage of mountains, rotates every day for our contemplation  –still, yet never the same.

How do you stoke your artistic Muse? Where do you draw your inspiration?

13 Comments Add yours

  1. I don’t draw or paint, but I do like to climb mountains on the bike! My favourite rides have been northward over the Pyrenees through Andorra – that was long, long and long… as well as the Jasper – Banff stretch. Take away the traffic and it would have been heaven.


    1. Jean says:

      I have not yet done the Jasper-Banff stretch but one day.. We’ve done Banff to Calgary several times. The Old Banff Coach Road from Canmore to Exshaw is a nice break from the Trans Canada. Just to let you know there is now a dedicated bike path removed from the Trans Canada highway between Canmore and Banff. Approx. 24 km. one way. It’s heaven to see the mountains rise up along the way without worrying about cars. I’ve heard the Pyrenees can be quite steep in certain areas. Painting is just dabbling activity for me right now. Just to keep my Muse limber, like maintaining cycling legs in the winter. 🙂


  2. Your latest painting is gorgeous, Jean! And I loved your description of coming back to painting for the first time “after no art touch.”


    1. Jean says:

      Good to hear from you again Courtenay. Yes, you know about art touch too where one has to occasionally exercise it like going jogging again to regain running legs or walk around in snow and some ice, to regain ice legs. I see that you enjoy the art touch in your photography. I just spent a few hrs. doing some more block prints yesterday.


  3. timethief says:

    Hi Jean,
    I see the mountains or rather I feel them in your painting. The overlapping layers produce infused with light produce interesting effects and shadows suggesting foliage and also substance of underlying rock.

    I know exactly what you mean when you refer to the tentative feeling of returning to art. On return our first efforts are exploratory as we feel our way towards letting go of thoughts and expressing more depth and intent. Now the art muse is with you again, there will be a progression of pieces that in retrospect, will contain much to muse about.

    I found my last tentative beginning began with paintings that reflect the “thinking” mode I was in. When I stopped thinking about the experiences I was recalling and representing on canvas and began experimenting a little and then a little more I lost self-consciousness and that divergence led to series a flow experiences.

    Mountains are inspiring not only because of their size and substance. They symbolize soaring heights that seduce us to climb them and see the vista from above. The best mountain paintings I have ever done were done were painted when I was visualizing myself as being the mountain. (You can find that visualization in a mountain meditation practice in my blog.) I sold that series of four mountain paintings to the same person and can still see them very well in my mind’s eye despite the passage of many years – over two decades.

    You have asked: “How do you stoke your artistic Muse? Where do you draw your inspiration?”

    I can’t say that there are any techniques that are effective when it comes to cajoling my artistic muse to leave the shadow world and join me as I stand before a canvas. My moods change like clouds passing thorough the sky and changes in the weather. In some “seasons” I’m a reader. In others I’m a writer. In still others I am an painter.

    Following the canvas burning I did of my art therapy expressions of raw emotions in response to trauma, my art muse has been AWOL but I feel no sense of loss at all. I feel purged and quite content being a do nothing at present. Perhaps she has joined my writing muse who has also taken an extended and unexpected vacation.

    P.S. I went through comment hell. For some reason or other my password which I did not change did not work. Hence I’m logged in under my other account. arraggghh!


    1. Jean says:

      I would have loved to have seen what those paintings that you did, looked like, timethief. Art is a creative light that can touch and infuse other facets of ourselves and sometimes help us. At this point, I just need explore without barriers and discover in a serendiptous way. Thanks for the encouragement. I would be surprised to create an even better piece. There is other stuff I have but just haven’t talked about or shown it virtually here. Doing art is just one of those activities I take upon a different times in life for the past few decades (we are getting older, aren’t we?).

      Occasionally I do get into the “zone” and strange, sometimes good things happen. When I did hand calligraphy, I started to overfocus, fall in love with letter shapes at times and spell the word incorrectly. So words, letter shapes can become art shapes and they can be especially if a person cannot read that language.

      What is amazing and impressive to me, are artists who must do art to earn money and hence, some must practice their art frequently. Also how do artists feel when they sell a favourie piece of art that they’ve produced? My stuff is not special and even I have difficulty parting it at this time. However I hope to change this for family and some friends. I’ve already parted with some favourite books. 🙂

      You’ll see more mountain works or something that suggests it. Waterfalls also. I’m glad you visited!


  4. timethief says:

    I’ve been so grief stricken for months now that I’m exhausted by my own suffering. Suffering is a choice just as happiness is. No matter what the circumstances we can choose how to respond to them and I simply melted down. That melt down happened after I gave up being angry at the medical profession for giving my brother not one but two hospital borne diseases when he was there for help and healing.

    The images I painted were small and painted in hot colors – as hot as the proverbial non-existent hell. There were layers of colors depicting my frustration and hostility and woven through them the tracks of my tears – tears that were so hot they burned my cheeks, tears that were so cold they were akin to dry ice. Tears depicting my wretched sorrow and deep grief. Painting them was cathartic and burning them cured the emotional hangover I was languishing in.


    1. Jean says:

      I haven’t consciously used painting yet for cathartic journeys yet. However, most likely I would look back on some of my paintings several years later to suddenly notice things that I don’t discern now. Like any enjoyable activity that is undertaken, things that we do best are done with some degree of intuition, subconsiousness and organic evolution from ourselves.

      It has been not only the grief for your brother, but for your mother who also died. As you know, I too know since I lost a sister. I’m not sure if I would be “cured” of sadness completely no matter what approaches I use for grief reconciliation since what lies ahead are other loved ones that we will lose over time. It is all more the reason that we make the very best of skills, certain experiences to help ourselves and if there are good results, to share with others who care about us and vice versa. The time is now, not later.

      Will you ever feature a painting that you still have, on your blog?


      1. timethief says:

        Hi Jean,
        I’m sorry that the notification of your question slipped by me. I will not be featuring any of my art on my blog in the near future. Perhaps I will in the far future when I’m retired.


  5. Jean, I love your painting– it’s a stunner! It’s one of those wonderful images that draws a viewer in and creates a contemplative mood. Every viewer will see and feel something different. It has a great deal of energy, and yet I find it very restful. It’s quite astounding that you were able to pull this out of your bicycle helmet after a long hiatus. Kudos! I do hope you will continue to create art and share it with us. Again, well done! : )


    1. Jean says:

      Thanks Mark. A compliment from a real artist like yourself, but different gift you show altogether. Yes, over a lonnnnng period of time, I will certain pieces. The bicycle helmet hides some stuff. Even I don’t know what’s hidden sometimes either! 🙂


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