painting and photographic works

Archive for July, 2011

A Series Experience – Color in the Landscape (part 3)

Wednesday 2011 July 13, the third day of Red Deer College Series course “Colour in the Landscape”, with Dave More.

Our painting location for today was about a 20 minute drive northeast of Red Deer at the Ellis Bird Farm [map]

Bluebird Crossing

This location had a great variety of subject matter to paints from farm fields to reflective ponds, landscape gardens to forest, and interesting plants and animals. There was even an industrial plant visible across the highway. I again started my day with wandering around with my camera – all of the varied subject matter was great for photography too.

A motion-abstracted photo of a landscape from the Ellis Bird Farm

Some (of the hundreds) of the Birdhouses on a Fence

Reflections in a Natural Pond at Ellis Bird Farm

Landscaped Pond at the Ellis Bird Farm

A fellow student painting on-site at the Ellis Bird Farm

A Path in the Woods (at Ellis Bird Farm)

One of the expected highlights of the day for the class was to paint the bright yellow canola fields that are seen everywhere in central Alberta in July. Alas there were not  many to be seen right from the Ellis Bird Farm location. There were however glimpses of canola fields in the distance (and we would get closer the next day):

Fence and Fields

Although this fabulous location had many great subjects for painting, it turned out that I didn’t even do a sketch on this day. I took a lot of photos and later, back in the studio I would produce this acrylic painting based on one scene:

My painting of tracks through the field near Ellis Bird Farm

I ended up working back at Red Deer College in the studio until about 10 that evening. That studio availability is one of the things I love about the Series courses!

To see more photos from this day and others on the Series course please visit my Flickr page.


Photos in the Rain

You might think that rain and photography don’t mix – I did. First there is just the hassle of  trying to keep your camera dry or your lens unspectled. Today I decided I was going out with my camera (Nikon D80) and just tucked it under my rain jacket, pulling it out only for a quick shot. I also mad a point of keeping the lens pointed down when not in use to minimize the possibility of raindrops striking it.

Perhaps a bigger deterrent to taking the camera out is the fear that there will not be anything to take a picture of. The environment looks very devoid of  color – just grey and green everywhere. Also it is relatively dark so one is forced to resort to higher ISO and/or lower f-stops for handheld shots. Or….one couldchange their approach.

Today, that is what I did. I decided I would deliberately go with slow shutter speeds – like around 1/4 second! I wasn’t going to worry about holding the camera steady. In fact I was planning to deliberately move it during the exposure ( a technique I have been playing with recently). I thought this approach was quite successful. I captured a number of images that I was quite happy with. In fact, I think the camera motion added signifcantly to reinforcing the feeling of rain – the directionality and blurring.

Rainy Street

Stairs in the Rain

Forest in the Rain

Fence Posts in the Rain

Dawson Park in the Rain

A Series Experience – Color in the Landscape (part 2)

This is my account of Day 2 (Tuesday July 12) of the Colour in the Landscape course offered by Red Deer College as part of their 2011 Series program.

My Studio Setup

I arrived early to the classroom on this day and immediately went to the room next door where we were set up with studio easels. My plan was to work in the studio from my field sketches – painting in acrylics. The first step was to lay out my acrylics, palette and  other paintng supplies. I didn’t have time to start painting that morning but I was ready to get down to work later in the day

Again we started the day with a quick critique of the previous day’s paintings (but I hadn’t gotten further than a few pen and marker sketches). We then had a slide presentation by instructor from instructor Dave More and a few words about the types of contrast. By tenish we got the maps for the daytrip and headed out. This day we went to historic Markerville, a 25 minute drive southwest of Red Deer.

Sign Outside the Creamery Museum

Markerville [map] is a tiny hamlet that historically was the site of a significant settlement for Icelandic settlers. It also featured a regional creamery and was the regional supply center. Today it is a quaint, little community , with a creamery museum and cafe, set on a small river with picturesque surrounding fields and landscapes. Of course we were there for the landscapes (and ice cream).

Upon arrival, our group soon spread out, some choosing village buildings or gardens to paint, others picking scenes with the river, fields or barns. I chose to spend the first hour or so just walking around with my camera, scouting out scenes to sketch later and capturing some reference photos.

Markerville's old one-lane, wood-surfaced bridge

Markerville Creamery Museum (and cafe)

A popular painting subject at Markerville

Painting in a field

Painting in-town (Markerville)

Painting at the edge of town

My colored Conte set

After having a huge and delicious double ice cream cone, I settled in on a bench, offering me a view of the river and fields to the southeast of Markerville.

One of my goals for the days was to try out different sketching media. I first dug out my watercolor sticks and after drawing in the scene in ink, I rubbed in the watercolor stick both dry and set. I also used a watercolor brush to blend in the colors and to apply some details. The result wasn’t great but I was satisfied to give it a try. Next, I changed my viewpoint a bit and dug out my colored Conte sticks. Again I started with an ink drawing but then used the Conte for color and value. Once the basic colors were laid-in I used water and brush for blending.

Markerville Sketch 2

After these sketches I drove back to the College. I intended to get down to painting in the studio that evening but by the time I got there I found the door locked. Fortunately though that freed me up to take-in a professional development seminar put on by Sharon Moore-Foster of the VAAA ( and who was also a figurative sculpting instructor that week).

See Part 1 in my blog for the story of the first day and for links to related information.


Landscape Photos Abstracted

While at Red Deer College in the Series “Color in the Landscape”  painting course, I always had a camera with me to capture reference photos for the  landscapes I would be painting (in a mostly representational manner). However, I could not avoid also capturing interesting photos purely for their abstract appeal. I particularly like to put the camera in motion to capture some atmospheric images. I find that the initial image is only half way to the finished abstract image. the post-processing  on the computer is equally important for me to realize a satisfying final work. I typically use Capture NX2 to adjust contrast, saturation and to crop the image.

Abstract 238-032

Occasionally I will use a digital “filter” from Color Efex Pro to coax out a unique effect.

Abstract 238-034

A full moon, slow exposure and panning the camera provided the basis for this Rothkoesque image:

Abstract 238-057

In this next image I applied an infrared treatment with Color Efex to get the strong yellow/pink color scheme to an image which I already had achieved the motion blur by a horizonatal sweep of the camera during exposure:

Abstract 238-031

Hillside is one of my favorites of this group and is at the top of my list to turn into a painting. The colors, composition and motion all appeal to me in this image:

Abstract 238-067 (Hillside)


A Series Experience – Color in the Landscape (part 1)

Last week (2011 July 11-15) I attended an inspiring painting course: “Color in the Landscape”. The course was one of eleven courses running in the Series program that week. Series is a long-running summer visual arts program put on by Red Deer College in the City of Red Deer [map]. Each July for the college offers a selection of week-long learning experiences in the visual arts. There are courses in every imaginable visual arts media from painting and drawing to sculpture, glass blowing, photography and jewelry-making. I have taken advantage of these programs many times over the last twenty years. It is always wonderful to get away from home and immerse oneself in art making (and learning of course). In conjunction with the courses, students have the option to book accomodations in the on-campus townhouse residences, which really helps to avoid distractions and to keep the focus on the art.

Typical color in the landscape around Red Deer as seen on the drive there

Red Deer College Residences

My week started with the 2 hour drive down from Edmonton, late on a Sunday afternoon. After a quick and efficient check-in at the residence office I had my keys and was unloading my stuff into my room. The courses start Monday morning at 0900 so after finding our classroom/studio I moved in with my boxes of painting  and sketching supplies, canvases, etc. The instructor for our course was David More, an excellent landscape painter whose style I have admired for a long time. He was taught courses in the series program for many years and I consider myself fortunate this year to finally get into one of his popular courses.

After introductions, and a slide show/discussion we were off to do some painting for the day, out in the countryside in and around Red Deer. This would be our daily schedule for the week – meet in the class, critique the previous day’s work, discuss some aspect of color theory, get a map for the days destination  and then by mid-morning be on our way.

Student painting en plein air

The first day we went to an urban park in Red Deer, Bower Ponds [map]. While most of my classmates, promptly set up their easels and got to work painting, I chose to wander about the park with  my camera(s) looking for interesting view points and capturing some reference photos for future use.

My sketch bag, book and markers

I chose not to bring along a french easel or pochade box on this  course. One of my goals was to see what I could accomplish for field sketches with a much lighter and more portable set-up. In particular I was interested in using pens, watercolor sticks and oil pastels. On this first day, after doing a lot of walking around the park I eventually did four ink drawings in my small sketchbook and then captured the values and local colors using grey and Pitt colored brush markers.

Path sketch

This Path sketch would be the inspiration for an acrylic painting done in the studio  later in the week.

Bower Pond Bridge sketch

Monday evening featured a welcome dinner put on for the Series particpants which was an opportunity to get to know a few students in other classes taking place that week. Following dinner I wandered around campus with my camera taking some photos of the dramatic skies as a prairie thunderstorm rolled into the area.

Storm Cloud Approaching Red Deer College


Color and Movement (Part 2)

This is a continuation of my previous post where I shared some motion-abstracted photographs. Here are a few more from that shoot on a windy, cool evening in July after a rainy day.

Abstract 110708-527

For most of these photos I used a  shutter speed of between 1/4 and 1/10 of a second with a shutter priority setting. I like to sweep the camera horizonatlly for a general landscape image. The speed of the camera movement as it relates to the shutter speed is something I am continuing to experiment with.

Abstract 110708-520

The vertical structure of tree trunks invites vertical movement of the camera, such as in this image:

Abstract 110708-483

One aspect that I quite like about these motion-abstractions is how the movement blurs out the elements of the urban environment. These images were all taken in  the city but you dould easily think they were from a rural environment.

Abstract 110708-518

The wet streets also create some great reflections and invite vertical camera motion

Abstract 110708-489

There is lots of fun to be had in exploring this unconventional idea of deliberately moving the camera and blurring the image. I love the effect and will continue to explore. Have any readers explored this technique?


Color and Movement

Here are a number of abstracted photos taken on a cool July evening after a rainy, windy day. As I have been experimenting with recently , the technique is one of using a slow shutter speed (1/4 to 1/10 sec)  and moving the camera during the exposure.

Post-rain Evening

Abstract 110708-519

Abstract 110708-529

Evening Landscape

Abstract 110708-536

I like the way motion can be used to blur the image, to obscure details that can distract from the strength of the color and patterns at the core of the image.


Tonalism – a Book Preview

Yesterday, I received an art book that I an quite excited about. It will take me a good while to work through this tome, so this is just a quick preview about the book and the subject.

A History of American Tonalism: 1880-1920

The book is  A History of American Tonalism: 1880-1920 by David A Cleveland. It is a very large and heavy book (610 pages, 22.5 x 30 cm) – substantial physically and in content and meaning.

Because I am not an art historian, nor a formal student, the term “tonalism” is one of the “-isms” I had not really heard of, although I could imagine what it was about. Here is part of the Amazon product description that caught my attention:

“The first definitive overview of the Tonalist movement-the crucial but long-misunderstood missing link in the evolution of American art … details the development and importance of Tonalism, starting with La Farge, Whistler, and Inness in the late 1800s, through its influence on the development of modernism in the Stieglitz Circle, on to Milton Avery, the Abstract Expressionism of Rothko, Gottlieb and Newman, and finally, postmodern Tonalists like Wolf Kahn … this tome argues Tonalism is the driving force in the development of a distinctly American vision, reflecting abstract and spiritual impulses that remain a force in American art today…” [my addition of  bold font]

This aspect of a missing link between of nineteenth century landscape painting which I’ve had an interest in, with “modern” art which I have a growing fascination with, immediately caught my interest. I have been learning a lot about the abstract expressionist movement and am a major fan of Wolf Kahn’s work. That these could all be connected, was a concept I just have to explore – to help me understand the common thread in what inspires my work. As you would get from the title, the focus of the book is on the 40-year period between the 19th and 20th centuries but I like that it does reach forward to other artists and movements in the 1900’s.

So at first glance, this book looks good, but it will not be an easy read. There are lots of photos of paintings although few are full page images. This is not a picture book; it is a book with lots of text – reading and thinking will be required. I am looking forward to spending a good part of my upcoming summer doing just that. Once I have done so, I will follow up with a proper book review