painting and photographic works

Archive for September, 2010

Rolling Through the Night

This is a painting I produced in November of 2008, inspired by a journey that I took a year before that:

Rolling Through The Night, 41x51 cm (16x20") oil on canvas

This painting is one of a number of paintings in a series I call my Night Train series. Seven works in the series have been completed to date – in oil and oil pastels. Click on this link to see the other works in this series on my website.

The series was inspired by a VIA Rail train trip that I took in November 2007 from Edmonton to Vancouver (this was the first leg of the journey that took me to Salt Spring Island for a week of exploring, photography and painting – but that is another story for another time). The VIA Canadian traveled across the province of British Columbia through the long night, arriving in Vancouver at dawn. I spent a lot of time through the evening and night staring out the window, often taking some long exposure, hand-held photos which served as the inspiration for the paintings.

This series was a bit of a departure for me both in the degree to which I abstracted the landscape and also the darkness of the color palette. Overall I was very pleased with the outcome.

This painting was donated to (and sold at) a fund raising auction for  the Visual Arts Alberta Association (VAAA) in November of 2009. I find the idea of capturing the mysterious self-abstracting night  landscape as seen from a train, very compelling. I fully expect to return to this theme and series again in the future.

*This painting was reproduced on my latest art card and I would be happy to mail one of these postcards to anyone requesting one (while supplies last).


Downtown Edmonton – Images in Black and White

On Friday September 24 at noon I was walking around downtown Edmonton, with my Nikon. Between the colors of autumn, clear blue skies, architecture and reflections off water and highrise windows, I found lots to take pictures of.  In most of the photos, color was an important part of the image that I captured but a few jumped out at me as obvious black and white images. So I removed the color, adjusted the contrast etc. with Capture NX2 and here are five of my favorites:


"Going Up"




"Through the Wall"


Looking through an opening on the east side of  Edmonton’s City Hall.



"One Lonely Cloud"


The sky this afternoon was a beautiful deep blue and virtually cloudless. This one little cloud stood out. It looked pretty striking against the blue but I immediately thought about converting to black and white using a “color filter” to turn the blue to near-black. This is pretty much what I envisioned – I’m happy with it!



"Walking the Grid"


A grid of shadow lines on Churchill Square


"Pyramid Maintenance"


A worker at the peak of the iconic glass pyramid of Edmonton’s City Hall.

Photos On a Circular Theme

Here are a five different and interesting photos that I took in September of 2010 on the theme of Circles. These were taken and processed with an iPhone 3Gs – most likely using the Hipstamatic application for capturing the image and the PhotoShop Mobile app for adjusting saturation, contrast, exposure etc.:

Pavings Stones


Targeting the Blues

Fire and Wires

Dandelion Seeds

Discovering Diebenkorn

It’s always exciting to discover a “new” artist – not new as in the sense of young and undiscovered,  just in terms of an artist that you haven’t yet gotten to know or appreciate. If I had a proper, formal art education there would be nothing new about the artist in this story but I didn’t, so let me take you on my voyage of discovery.

In July of 2010 I visited  San Francisco for the first time. Among the many sites on my list to see was the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). I previously shared some photos and impressions of the museum itself in this blog entry so I will jump straight to my discovery:

"Cityscape I" by Richard Diebenkorn at the SFMOMA

Cityscape I took my breath away. It made a connection with me before I even knew whose work I was looking at. I had to read the title to know it was Richard Diebenkorn, a name I’d heard of but knew nothing about, other than his association  with the 20th Century American Abstract Expressionist movement. In this work I  liked the way Diebenkorn has taken an obvious landscape subject and flattened the space to abstract the scene

Fortunately with Diebenkorn having lived in the San Francicso area, the SFMOMA has a bit of a collection of his work and there were at least a couple I was able to see on my visit. This was another one that had me nodding by head, “Yes, I really, really like this!” :

Richard Diebenkorn at the SFMOMA

There is so much I like about this painting. I like how it combines a figure with a landscape. I like the full value range and the demonstration that a lot of detail is not necessary.

After this initial exposure to Diebenkorn’s work I had to know more and see more. When I got home I quickly searched for books of his work and life and ordered The Life of Richard Diebenkorn by Jane Livingston

"The Art of Richard Diebenkorn" by Jane Livingston

This was a very good book. It gave me a biography of the artist and a good selection of images of his works. It is a book I read through and have gone back to browse in a number of times since.

The paintings of Diebenkorn appeal to me  and teach me a number of things.   As previously mentioned, the fact that his subject matter covers the spectrum from landscapes and figures,  to highly abstracted non-representational is something I find gives me license, or confidence to similarly explore a range of subjects.

I also made some discoveries through viewing, reading-about and contemplating Diebenkorn’s work. My eyes were opened to how the landscape can be abstracted by flattening of space (providing an aerial perspective). Diebenkorn demonstrates the value of leaving marks of the painting process to give a richness to the work. I also became aware of how he uses inside and outside scenes in a single painting – I love that! These are all things that I fully intend to explore and test in my own work and I am excited about that.

I may have been late to the show but having now discovered Richard Diebenkorn,  I look forward to what more I can learn and I certainly won’t hesitate to recommend others to fully discover this inspirational artist.

“Defiant Spirits” – a book preview

Although I am developing quite a stack of art-related books to read, my most recent acquisition has  jumped to front of the queue!

I am now through the first four chapters of “Defiant Spirits, the Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven” by Ross King – and I am loving this book. I have been eagerly anticipating this book since I first heard (last winter) that it was coming . As soon as I saw orders were being taken, I put mine in. So why my interest?

Firstly I am a big fan of the quintessential Canadian art movement, the Group of Seven (and of course Tom Thomson) and that is who this books is about. I am eager to understand all I can about how these painters came to see and paint the Canadian landscape the way they did  and this book is certainly aiming to do that. The other great personal influence for my painting was the impressionist and post-impressionists movements. This book attempts to explain ties between the European and Canadian movements, looking at the history of each of the members of the group, their European influences and their interactions with each other. Much has been written (and much I have read)  before about the Group of Seven  but I am learning new things with each page of this book.

I also didn’t hesitate to  purchase this book, given that it was authored by Ross King. I thoroughly enjoyed his award-winning previous book  “The Judgment of Paris”. This Saskatchewan native now based out of England has also written a number of other books that I will have to get around to reading someday – but for now – it’s back to Defiant Spirits

Guilded Show at Profiles

Last Thursday (September 2, 2010) evening, I attended the opening of the “Guilded” show at the Profiles Public Art Gallery in St. Albert. The exhibition features the work of nine artists in the St. Albert arts guilds. Most of the works are paintings but there is a nice variety of  styles of work, including a lovely textile work and a series of striking Raku torsos. Although I enjoyed all of the works, my favorites were the abstract paintings of Rick Rogers and the impressive, expressive landscapes of Mike Dendy.

Rick’s painting Attachments is one not to miss. This painting is done with acrylics on hardware cloth and has a delightful translucent quality to it. It looks good on a wall and not doubt would look even more magical if it were positioned to allow light to shine through it.

If you happen to be in downtown St. Albert before the show closes on October 2nd, it is certainly worth stopping in to have a look.

da Vinci, Kandinsky and Josef Albers

I have received  another three art books that I think should be enlightening and useful. I haven’t read these yet but I wanted to share what attracted me to each of these books

Leonardo da Vinci’s A Treatise on Painting.

Not that I want to paint in da Vinci’s style but I will be fascinated to read about the approach and vision of one of the greatest minds of all time. I was quite surprised to discover that a book written by hi would even be available since da  Vinci lived from 1452-1519. This book is a reprint of the 1877 English translation.

Wassily Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art.

This book was mentioned by Norwegian painter David Sandum as an influential favorite book of his, and based on that I am intrigued. It is a slim book of only 57 pages but I expect it will  be a gem.

Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color.

I love color and am always interested in learning more about color perceptions and how that might be used in art. This is a recent revised and expanded version of the original 1963 publication.

I look forward to reading these but unfortunately I am getting quite a stack of books to read and I am not sure when I will get to these. When I do though, I will be sharing some of the key things that I learn.