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Leonie Lemphers

Yukon Project

Drawing From Nature

Master Drawing Workshop

With Visual Artist

Maria Luisa de Villa

September 6, 2009, Tuktu Studio

Whitehorse, Yukon Territories

" Drawing From Nature"  was truly an experience which changed my drawing, stretched my view of objects and space, and  drew the sense of feeling and place into my work. "

Student Reflections On The Workshop

Have you ever tried drawing without looking at what you were doing?


Student Reflexions


“When I was younger, I once drew a pig for my cousin, with my eyes closed - I think it was a dare. This however was different. We were to draw what we were feeling, touching an object with one hand and with the other, draw it using broad edge of a charcoal. And although my drawing didn't wind up looking particularly like the object that was part of the exercise - letting go of the idea that my creation had to resemble something I could visually see. The instructor, Maria Luisa, was very clear we were drawing what we felt, not what we saw - why should they look the same? "


“Later that afternoon, we explored the forest around Joyce Majiski‚s studio where we were working. Maria Luisa pointed out the invisible spaces, the air between the trees, instructing us to draw the shapes between. I had encountered this way of looking in a watercolor course I ‚had done earlier in the year, but had never tried it myself. For me it really defined the physical relationship between things and the sense of unity and place within the surroundings. "

“Our next assignment - to pick a smooth tree and explore it with our hands (without looking) feeling the bark. What looked smooth suddenly took on character and depth. "

“Back in the studio we were to first draw what we‚ had felt, emptying out our feeling onto the paper, before drawing what we saw. We now had a complete picture - the space around the tree, the feeling of the tree and what we ‚had seen. It was amazing the difference in the drawings - both looked like trees, but the one we felt was warmer, and had more depth, feeling and interpretation than the flat drawing of what we saw. "

“We topped off the workshop with our environmental art piece. In exploring our ideas for this project at times we became art - lying on the ground to become the path in the wood, seeing and hearing the trees rustle above, feeling the soft support of the forest floor on our backs, smelling the pungent smell of the wet ground - finding our place in relation to the environment around us. We worked collaboratively, tagging trees with stencils we ‚had made earlier, finding and establishing connections, and finally tying the whole project together with a flowing figure of a tree comprised of materials from the forest floor. Our statement, our drawing in the land. "


The Yukon Letters

Maria Luisa de Villa

Yukon Gold

Whitehorse, YT

September 4, 2009

The notion of place and connectedness is important to me in my life and creative process. I see and feel the personality of place and I have the idea. I connect and the dialogue begins unfolding a sense of the place and my own relationship with space and nature.

While walking the tree lined pathway down to the lake at the Ted Harrison Art Residence by the Graig Lake in the Yukon, the verticality and sun rays cast on the poplars caught my attention and I knew I had to work with these elements. I began by gilding a few trees with small vertical bars of gold leaf. This began to make sense later, when walking through a larger grove of poplars, seeing the golden sun light breaking in the woods into hundreds of small shapes suggesting a resonance with my work in progress and alluding to the Yukon history of mining and the gold rush period. My creative intervention resonates with what surrounds me here, gold mostly comes in bar shapes.

During the following days, I continued tagging, a form of graffiti and marking a territory, leaving an imprint. I was creating a design by linking the gilded trees to the gilded large rock at the entrance at THARS and ending by the water's edge where I gilded one lake rock and began to carve an image of a corn cob.


As I went for short walks, I was impacted by the powerful beauty of this land, the strong personality of the mountains and their sensual forms, the richness of the flora and fauna. I think of the similarities with Northern Ontario where I lived for many years, which is also a place with a strong sense of community as in the Yukon. In my vision, northern Canadians have a very distinct identity perhaps due to their close connection to the land.

For the Llama Project I have been working with imagery of the maiz criollo plant (Mexican native corn), making large vertical or horizontal banners of paper with images of corn and drawing corn images on my huipil series.

While at THARS we are visited by interesting people like Allan the video artist from Whitehorse and his Athabascan wife, Mary, who also makes short animation videos; Kevin, an Ojibway carver and fine musician originally from North Bay, Ontario who moved here; and Miche and Hector who cooked an incredible meal last night for us, complete with fresh lake salmon and greens and berries from their own garden. They all see my environmental art work and say “Yes, it is fitting‚ or ‚it is elusive like the gold rush. It will also relate to my work in the exhibition. I call it Yukon Gold Corn.


Back in Oaxaca, Mexico, but still fresh from the contact with the Yukon land, I think of my last days there. Days spent at THARS, walking through the wooded areas, sometimes ignoring the paths.

I completed the work Yukon Gold Maize at the Ted Harrison Artist Retreat. Created in minimalist terms, it is a land work that incorporates the elements of time and the notion of place. It is meant to transform within the changing seasons. Mary Bradshaw, Director of the Yukon Public Art Gallery, kindly permitted me to create an extension of this piece in the grounds of the gallery for our November group exhibition Voz / Voices.

The small gilded gold bar images, begin to unfold form and meaning as seasons change and visitors dialogue with the work and describe their own visual encounter. Elizabeth Hanson said it evoked the golden light so particular of the Yukon in the early summer and fall evenings. While some people find resonance with the gold rush historical period, others speak about its connection to earth and its components of minerals and metals. Yet others see movement as the gold bar images interact with the verticality of the trees seen as if in motion while walking through the woods.

These last golden fall days were spent meeting wonderful people who came to interact with us artists, picking juniper berries with Mary. Angela, Allan and Cesar joined Mary and I, Cesar and Allan photographed and filmed us walking, Haruko`s Window of Time, my Mexican huipil dress laying on the juniper bushes or hanging from a tree branch with Mary and I peeking from behind.

I chose this site of junipers and one fine poplar tree growing in the middle, to create my second land work an ofrenda altar installation using my gold bar images gilded on the poplar, golden leaves fixed on its trunk and long horizontal string of hanging golden fireweed leaves. It reminded me of a “tendedero” clothesline, or the rows of handmade papers as they hang to dry.

I made this work in return for the berries, pebbles, leaves, twigs, feathers and other material I borrowed from nature for my work. I named it Gold Offering for the Yukon. This ofrenda installation and the Gold Yukon Maiz landwork, are my offering of gratitude to the Yukon and its inhabitants for my incredible experience there. For me, it was a spiritual experience, one of creation and reconnection with our majestic Canadian land, the land of my husband and our four children, I am thankful for this.

It was a time to share my ideas and concepts on drawing with art students, a time to interact with beautiful people such as Ted Harrison and his people, whose generosity of spirit allows artists the time and place to create and also helps other iniatives like the LLAMA Project, to make things happen for artsits and the community. I took my bits of gold and criollo maiz, Mexican corn kernels from Mexico to the Yukon as a symbol of Mexican culture and through my creative work I found a way to leave these presents there.


Offering for the Yukon

Whitehorse, YT

September 21, 2009


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Maria Luisa de Villa

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Una Ofrenda para el Yukon _ Ofrenda Yukon.  Instalacion en sitio con colgadero de hojas de
12- Yukon Gold Maiz. Instalacion en sitio con hoja de oro y maices criollos en area de bos
8- Yukon Gold Maiz. Instalacion en sitio con hoja de oro y maices criollos en area de bosq
4- Yukon Gold Maiz. Instalacion en sitio con hoja de oro sobre piedras de rio, Craig Lake,
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