A Good Home, Art, Artists, Beautiful Neighborhoods, Bond Head, Butterflies, Canadian life, Canadians, Children, Country Homes, Country Living, Couples, Homes, Inspiration, Joyful Moments, San Miguel de Allende, Teaching Children Art

At Home with Sandra Walton-Ball

David Walton-Ball opens the door of his summer home, east of Toronto, and is greeted by a child looking up at him:

“Can Sandra come out to play?”

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and David in Orchard

Sandra — you may be surprised to hear —  is not a child.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Studio Wall

She’s David’s wife, a talented artist whose work hangs in galleries in Canada and Mexico.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Painting of Island

Blog Photo - Artist Sanda Painting side viewNeighborhood children gravitate towards her and she loves them. So she teaches children to create their own artwork.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and Student

She and the children have developed a system at her small studio at the summer house.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra stands at work table

If this sign is up, Sandra can’t come out to play.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Sign

In Mexico where she and David spend the winter, Sandra teaches art to children whose parents can’t afford to pay for lessons.

“We put on Andrea Bocelli and the children sing along.”

San Miguel de Allende is home to many artists from Canada and the U.S.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and Leonard's painting

Years ago, Sandra met Leonard Brooks, an esteemed artist who started the Canadian and American migration to San Miguel. They became friends. That’s one of his paintings behind her, above.

Music playing, the children in her studio sing and paint. This is her gift to them and their families: encouraging the children’s creativity. She introduces them to the styles of Mexican artists such as Frida Kahlo.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Gesticulates

You wouldn’t know that, nearly 20 years ago, Sandra was so ill, she was on life support for months. It took her 15 years to start painting confidently again.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Reaches for brush

Once recovered, she decided to take more risks with her art. And so wherever she is – in Owen Sound, the family’s main base, or in San Miguel de Allende, or here at the summer home near Toronto, she’s painting – doing “gutsier and more experimental work”.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Yellow Flower painting

“When something happens to disrupt your life, you recognize that things can happen and you may not get a chance again – so you start taking risks.”

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Framed painting Abstract

David hired someone to turn half of the garage into a studio with skylights, and there’s been no looking back.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Studio Outside

Generations of the Walton-Ball family have lived in Historic Bond Head for about 150 years.

During World War 2, the family planted and supplied potatoes to all their neighbours.

(Another historical tidbit: David’s first ancestor in Canada is the “Walton” for whom Port Hope’s main street is named. Port Hope, a famous heritage community, is near Bond Head.)

Blog Photo - Artist Sadnra window garden

Through 50 years of marriage, Sandra has seen how special the place is to David. It’s grown on her.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra in Sunroom wicker chair

“I fall in love with it each summer. Each year my garden grows. And now, like Virginia Wolfe, I have a room of my own, so it’s easier to find my heart.” 

They love this place for the history, the house, the studio, the family times, the garden and the orchard. Some of the apple trees are more than a hundred years old.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and David Picking apples

One summer, Monarch butterflies visited Sandra and David here. (Monarchs fly from Mexico all the way to Canada each summer and back.)

“You couldn’t see a leaf,” Sandra says. “The trees were covered with Monarchs.”

That magical event led to this painting….

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Butterflies CU

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Butterfly painting

… and a gift: a butterfly chair from David.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and Chair

“Perhaps the Monarchs were saying thanks for all your good works with the children in Mexico?” I ask.

“Perhaps,” Sandra replies.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Wheelbarrow with flowers

To learn more about Sandra’s work, or to acquire her paintings, email: swaltonball@gmail.com

A Good Home, Artists, Authors, Gardens, Home

Five Acrylic Paintings: Homes and Flowers

I’m pleased to bring you the art of Elizabeth Melton Parsons,writer and painter. Having only one talent, writing, I’m in awe of people like Elizabeth, who can write AND paint. This series is about HOME.

Elizabeth Melton Parsons

More of my paintings:

Home and Garden-1 Home and Garden-1

Home and Garden-2 Home and Garden-2

Home and Garden-3 Home and Garden-3

Home and Garden-4 Home and Garden-4

Flowers Flowers

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A Good Home, Couples, Following your dreams, Home, Home Decor, Homes, Inspiration, Interior Design, Life in canada, Lifestyle, Prince Edward County, Renovating, Restoration, Spring, Woodwork

Part 2: John’s House in Prince Edward County


John Garside and his wife Ann sold their home in big-city Toronto last year and bought a house two hours away in Prince Edward County.  They’ve been living in a condo nearby while John renovates the house.

image via prince-edward-county.com
image via prince-edward-county.com

Prince Edward County is known for small towns, farms and lakeside living.  In the last decade, its vineyards and wines, fine cheeses and restaurants have also become popular. The County is a well-known mecca for artists and weekenders.

John has bravely promised Ann that they’ll be able to move in by the end of April.

Blog Photo - Picton House Exterior 2

But their “new” home  is more than a hundred years old, huge — almost 4,000 square feet —  and needs repair.   John, who has never taken on a project of this scope, is doing almost all the work by himself.

The first room he tackled was “The Green Room” on the main floor.

“It was the worst room in the house, ”  he says.  “A water leak from the 1980’s had caused a great deal of damage to the plaster ceiling, walls and the crown moldings.”

Blog Photo - Green Room in Progress

John took on the challenge –– very carefully.  He rebuilt ceiling, walls, and even the crown moldings.

“I repaired what others would have scrapped, and I did it all by myself!  And I had never done anything like this in my life!”  You can hear the joy in his voice.

Blog Photo - Picton Green Room 3

Every time he looks at the room,  John feels “a glow of satisfaction and a sense of oneness with the house”.

Blog Photo - Picton Green Room

The house is full of beautiful features worth preserving.    John has to proceed cautiously.

Blog Photo - Picton Window

He says, “You think about each action a great deal before you act. That way the unpleasant surprises are held to a minimum.”

Blog Photo - Heritage Sign

The skills he learned from his grandfather — extreme patience, careful planning, attention to detail and observing safety rules –are all essential right now.  ‘Measure twice, cut once’ is the rule.

“You must understand,” he says,  “that the project you are working on is not modern, but 100 years old. So you must take time to think about what you are about to do, and plan in detail how you are going to achieve success.”

John puts in 8 hours every day — and no slacking off.  After all, the end of April is just around the corner.

Will he make the deadline? We’ll keep checking in.

Original Photos by John Garside

A Good Home, Art, Artists, Canadiana, Cottage Life, Landscape Art, Ontario Cottages

The Cottage on Sugar Lake

It puzzles new immigrants no end:  what is this thing that Canadians speak about so lovingly – this thing they call, simply, “The Cottage”?  And why do they seem almost maniacally happy when they mention it?

Canoeing on Sugar Lake - Photo by Hamlin Grange
Don Corbett Canoeing on Sugar Lake – Photo by Hamlin Grange

One new immigrant told me that when he first came to Ontario, he thought everyone – except him – was going to the same mysterious cottage somewhere.  Another immigrant laughed as he recalled a visit to a friend’s rustic cottage.

“I couldn’t believe it!” he chortled. “That people actually CHOOSE to spend their summer weekends in such primitive conditions. Where I come from, only very poor people would live in a place like that!”

These days, many of the old family cottages on the lake are being replaced by ‘Muskoka Mansions’ – huge houses with fancy kitchens and bathrooms – the kind you see in decor magazines.

But whatever its size, “the cottage” occupies a sacred place in the hearts of many Canadians.

Blog Photo - Dons painting

Artist Don Corbett does much of his painting in his studio at the family cottage on Sugar Lake, a nearly 3-hour drive north of Toronto.  It’s where he finds much of the inspiration for his art.  Don paints landscapes.

The family has owned the cottage since the 1970’s, and though improvements have been made, it’s still a modest building. Theirs is the quintessential Canadian cottage, made of wood.  Up there, it’s the lake and the trees, the fresh air and family get-togethers that matter.

“I love the solitude, (but I also love) the opportunity to be with my family and friends,” says Don.  “I just love the north country and the cottage gives me a good anchor.  The cycling is awesome too,  and so is the cross-country skiing. ”

Blog Photo - Cottage on Sugar Lake

Perhaps that’s part of the appeal of Canada’s lake-country cottages.  They encourage the outdoor life, whether swimming or canoeing in warm weather, skiing or snow-shoeing in winter.  And they remind many people of a bygone era, when conveniences at the cottage were few, but a family from the city could find pleasure, comfort – and a summer home –  in the wilderness.

“Home is where the hearth is,” Don says.  “The fireplace is warm there, the sensibilities are clearer…no urban noise to clutter thought or negatively alter one’s mood.  And for 7 months of the year I can go jump in the lake, or take my red canoe for a meditative paddle along the shore. The seasons are more defined in the north….Vivaldi would approve!”

Don's Studio - Photo by D. Corbett
Don’s Studio – Photo by D. Corbett

I’m betting composer Vivaldi didn’t have our Canadian winters in mind when he wrote “The Four Seasons”.  Just weeks ago,  Don says, he removed about “31 tons of snow” off the roof of the main cottage.  It goes with the territory, and doesn’t diminish his love for the place one bit.

If he had a choice, Don would live at the cottage full-time.

“But my wife Jan would leave me, paint brush in my hand,” he jokes.   Jan likes to visit, not live there.

Blog Photo - Doris on the dock

From Wednesday, March 12 to Sunday, March 16,  a selection of Don’s paintings will be displayed at the McKay Art Centre on Main Street in the historic town of Unionville  (on the edge of Toronto).   The hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

Blog Photo - Red Canoe

The show is titled:  My Heart Leaps Up — Landscapes by Donald Corbett and Friends.

I’m honoured to be among those friends.  I’m no painter, mind you.   But Don has invited me to read an excerpt from one of my stories in Canada’s Art and Architecture magazine,  Arabella on Saturday, March 15, and to do a short reading from my new book, A Good Home.

Above paintings by Donald Corbett

For more information: doncorbett@rogers.com