Owl Creek Studio Newsletter – January 2024

Elska in the forests of Mount Tzouhalem, Maple Bay, BC

Happy New Year!

Hello friends,

I’m in Maple Bay, just outside of Duncan, BC for a little personal retreat, housesitting and dog sitting for a friend. I have the joy of sleeping in a king sized bed with three cuddly silken windhounds who want as much contact and warmth as possible, all night long. I might be in heaven! Right now it’s raining heavily outside in the dark, and the trees surrounding this house have been bending in the wind all day as the storm moves through this region. I don’t mind. This is the quiet after the busy holiday season.

Ticket, Fiadh and Elska, silken windhounds on a walk on Stoney Hill, Maple Bay, BC

This seems like a good time to write an update about my art studio business, when people turn their gaze to look at the year ahead, and also review the year that is past. It has been a year of slow, steady work and solid successes for my art practice.

the incredible view from Stoney Hill regional park, Maple Bay, BC

Once again I made an art mail out for the holiday season. This tradition has taken many forms over the years. I used to write long letters with photos and news. Then I started making handmade cards. Two years ago I made fine art prints. Last year I made ornaments and handmade linocut mini prints. I decided to do that again this year. It was a labour of love, but I think next year I may change what I do again to be simpler and easier. The labour is a lot. I made 53 handmade prints, and a whopping 200 ornaments! The ornament photos below were taken by Beth Doman.

my linocut prints of a Steller’s Jay
Last year’s print featured a pair of barred owls, so a theme is developing, and these prints are becoming a collectible series. My friends and family seemed very happy to receive them. For me it renews the feeling of connection with people in my life when I send handmade art in the mail. That is why I keep doing this every year. I don’t know what next year’s tradition will look like but I want it to be different from a typical greeting card.
This fall I was offered the opportunity to teach an art program for the Ptarmigan Arts Society. I launched a watercolour and ink sketching program beginning in October. My students are my neighbours and our venue is the clubhouse in our community! It’s the perfect job for me, as home-based as it can be without actually being in my house, teaching what I’m most interested in right now, and connecting me in a beautiful way with my community. My neighbours are very enthusiastic and sweet. They love art class and we are having a great time together! Our program continues until early March when we will have a little art show and celebration in the clubhouse. I hope to continue offering more programs into the spring and early summer with Ptarmigan Arts Society. They have been so supportive and my students are very grateful to have the opportunity to learn and play creatively together. It’s wonderful!

This past week I have been updating my website – www.carolinestengl.com – by adding more artwork to my portfolio. I feel excited to see my artwork stacking up on the screen. I feel accomplished and pleased with my work over the years. Please have a look and enjoy all the various paintings, drawings and prints I have added to my online portfolio. The two images below are part of the new additions.

In the fall I travelled to Creston to see my dad and have a holiday. While I was there the Kootenays experienced an especially abundant bonanza of mushrooms growing in the forest. It was truly amazing to see all the variety of shapes, colours and prolific growth of the fungi! Even the squirrels got in on the action, storing mushrooms up in the branches of trees so they could snack on them later. I know very little about mushrooms and identifying them, but I am beginning to learn.

I went for a mushroom collecting adventure on my dad’s property, filling a cardboard box with a bunch of them. Back in Papa’s studio I photographed them all, sketched and painted a few, and created an art reference library for myself that I can come back to for image ideas. It just so happens that mushrooms are totally trending in the world of art and decor right now, so it can’t hurt to get in on that with my paintings. I have already sold one small mushroom watercolour commission to a friend as a Christmas gift for her sister. I plan to make more paintings of mushrooms. I also have an ID book now, a gift from Papa, so I am starting to identify a few more species as I find them, keeping in mind that some species can be quite toxic and deadly! I did get to enjoy eating some delicious Chanterelles and a Lobster mushroom while I was in Creston, but wouldn’t dare eat any I find myself in case I misidentify something dangerous. I’ll just enjoy their beauty and paint them!

I made a few small changes to my Etsy online shop, making some items available in the US. I intend to update and add new listings to the shop soon but haven’t had the time or the right products just yet. Still there’s lots to look at there, so please take a browse of my offerings on Etsy!

I began a series of handmade postcards in the summertime, drawing forest scenes from my time spent in the woods with Elska, my dog. I also did some plein air painting (that means painting outdoors) while the weather was warm and pleasant. I think the postcards and outdoor sketching will be something I continue this year when the winter rains and snow have eased off into spring.

Millstream Creek in Summer, watercolour on Arches paper, 9×12 inches, 2023

During the summer and fall I was experimenting with making natural inks and art supplies such as charcoal. It felt like alchemy, cooking up pots of amaranth, walnuts, berries and other pigment-rich things and decanting the colourful ink into jars. I made charcoal out of willow and honeysuckle vines, sealing up the pieces in metal tins and burying them in the embers of an outdoor bonfire at my dad’s place. Two hours later I opened up the tins to find beautiful sticks of natural charcoal I can use to draw. Papa’s neighbour gave me a bag of walnuts in their green hulls, and that made the most beautiful espresso brown ink. I cooked up so many different things, with varying results. I’m excited to use these products but not sure how this will evolve in my art practice just yet. It’s fun to follow my curiosity and see what happens.

I participated in another WEEprints exchange with PRINT Victoria, a collective of printmakers in my city. Participants created an edition of 12 tiny handmade prints and sent them in. We each received a collection of prints from the other artists. My package of prints arrived not too long ago and I cherish the miniature artworks! So many brilliant artists out there working in the medium of printmaking! I find it inspiring. Here is my print, an image of the full moon rising behind the cherry blossoms on my tree.

Moonrise with Cherry Blossoms, reduction linocut print, 1.5 x2 inches, 2023

I’m still slowly working on my silken windhound themed colouring book project. I took an online course this fall about how to make a self published colouring book, so I now have a bit of a road map to follow in this process. However it’s a very ambitious project that will require much time to complete. Here is a sample page. More to come.

Louise on her Doughnut, digital illustration, 8×10 inches, 2023

I am asking myself what is ahead for me in 2024. I have many art projects that are tugging at my sleeve, asking to be completed. Plus I’m doing a lot more teaching than I was before. Lots of fun and very fulfilling! I also have many other creative mediums that I am engaged with such as knitting, gardening, music, and writing. My social life has been expanding into a rich mosaic of connections, and family life continues to be loving and good. I think I will look back at this time one day and know that it was a happy time, rich with blessings, creativity and love. May 2024 be happy and good for you and your loved ones! Best wishes!

Caroline

Caroline and Elska on Taylor beach, Metchosin, BC