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I want to thank you for a really amazing time during Leah’s workshop. The space you are creating is nothing short of magical - I can’t wait to see the finished product! You definitely have an eye for design and decor. I love the fixtures and doors that you’ve selected so far. The space has such great energy.

I think your mission with BDQ is so worthy, women need safe, non-judgmental places to create - we are creators by our very nature. I’m so thrilled to have been part of your inaugural launch.

It was such a treat meeting Jake as well. He’s such a beautiful, gentle soul. I was very touched by his thoughtfulness - on more than one occasion. I look forward to the next time we meet and create together.

- Margaret Rizzo

I just wanted to send a heartfelt thank you for everything this weekend. The space, the food and the participants were top notch, I am very grateful. I'm so happy for you embarking on this new journey, I think it's going to be super exciting. The location and the plans you have for the studio offer so many creative learning possibilities for the local community and far beyond. It is definitely a unique opportunity. 

Also, I wanted to send a heartfelt thank you to Jake for all of his help. His willingness to help and to learn more to improve the studio is wonderful and refreshing. 

- Lorraine Glessner

Artist alert - musicians, writers!  A new artist retreat - workshop venue has just launched. Heather Laidlaw’s Big Dramatic Questions promises to be a quintessentially Canadian treasure to established artists, and artists in the making.  The retreat just opened its doors, and it’s the end of week one - so this is a prediction but there is a palpable sense this place is built on a dream that will surely become a reality.

After spending years travelling the globe and taking workshops with world class  artists, Heather is bringing these artists here, to Ontario. Nestled into the escarpment with a view of Georgian bay lining  the horizon, she’s built a retreat centre par excellence. This year she’s invited artists from across North America and across the globe - from as far away as Abiqui New Mexico to deliver workshops and share their expertise.

You enter the building into a huge open space, and every window could be a landscape painting - a winter one this week. It’s November and we’ve already been blanketed by snow, rain showers and short sunny periods during the 4 day workshop I’m attending.  The space is so integrated into the countryside it feels like you are connected with nature in every room.

Heather has created the retreat for communities of artists to come together, learn, share and work on their craft.  The centre piece is the Aha Studio -  an open  30x40 ft space with cathedral ceilings, and walk out doors - into a property of trees.  Tucked in one corner is a seating area, equipped with a 65 inch frame tv. Lorraine Glessner - the phenomenal Philadelphia based encaustic artist who is teaching us this week - has used the space to present a lesson to our class  and to show life sized images of original works as part of the lesson. 

Heather is a gracious and welcoming host.  Participants can stay on site, in one of the five private or shared rooms or at the many off site hotels are available in the ski and sun country area in and around Collingwood. Our lunches were catered to meet the various culinary tastes and needs of the group, and she booked a group dinner at a local Thornbury restaurant run by Mark McEwan of top chef fame.  The workshops ran smoothly thanks to her son and assistant Jake, who kept the studio organized and supplied and ensured the group had access to the technology and the superb sound system that extended throughout the space. 

While visual artists taught this week’s workshops, and form the core of this years roster,  Heather hopes to open the space to writers and musicians as well. Her proximity to good highways and the magic of GPS will likely continue to make this an easy location to access - from the city center in Toronto 2.5 hours away, to the east coast of the US. Half our group this week was from the US - and had driven up from Kentucky, Maine, and Maryland. 

On quiet days, the local area offers adventures including hikes to local caves at Tobermory, waterfalls and picturesque landscapes at the national park near the Bruce peninsula.

Hold me to my prediction - for artists Big Dramatic Questions is a quintessentially Canadian treasure in the making, and one that needs to be experienced to understand its value to your practice.  If you are new to art and want to experiment, this phenomenal space promises an opportunity to get in touch with your artistic side in the company of people dedicated to a life connected to the creative process.

- Jane Cousens

I just had an amazing experience with a photo encaustic workshop at a new studio just opened in the blue mountains Ontario Canada .  In two days, I got a burst of energy, passion, inspiration, confidence and practical training.  This was a result of a fabulous and passionate host/artist - Heather -  combined with a high quality instructor, Leah Macdonald, a terrific group of fellow participants, models, and a very inspirational physical space (not to mention delicious food).  The workshop lent itself to all levels of experience with encaustic (from beginner to advanced).   It was totally worth the trip for me, and I will go back again! 

- Nancy Hinckley, (Belfast, Maine)