In this part 2, I share more mountain paintings, a few more from the Banff region with a couple more based on reference photos from when I cycled the “Golden Triangle” in May of 2010.
Living in the Canadian province of Alberta, the Rocky mountains have always been nearby and not an infrequent subject for my art (although not nearly as much as I would like). In this 2-part blog post I will share my take on mountains as subjects for landscape paintings.
All of the works in this “Part 1” were painted in August 2009 when I spent a week at the Banff Centre.
This small series from the autumn of 2012 was an exploration of mark making into the wet surface of an oil-painted canvas:
This painting series was a bit unique for me. It had a common theme in terms of the subject matter – all of the images were drawn from what I saw (and captured with photos) during the night while on a train between Edmonton and Vancouver in November of 2007. What was unique for me was the use of oil pastel on a number of the works, and oil paint on a couple of larger ones.
In my previous blog post I shared my Alberta landscape paintings from the particularly busy year of 2010. In this post, I share my landscape works from a couple years before and after that year.
(See the previous blog post for Alberta landscape paintings from the year 2010)
Although landscapes are a theme I have always painted, there are periods when they become a particular focus. In around 2010, I developed a new series of landscapes from my home province of Alberta. Most of these again depict the prairies and parkland that dominates the central region of the province. I was painting primarily with oils during this period and this series was painted in the studio.
In 2009, I painted a series inspired by a train trip from Toronto to Edmonton in December of 2008. The first day and a half of the trip covered southern and northern (northwest) Ontario (actually not very far north in terms of Canada’s geography but feeling very far removed compared to the Toronto region). I took many photos of the rugged terrain of the Canadian Shield to use as reference images for paintings. As a series this is one of my personal favorites. Here are the key works:
“Evening from the Canadian”, oil on canvas, 61 by 122 cm (24×48″), 2009
A year ago I was packing up the studio that I’d called “my space” for 16 months. It was hard. I came to the reluctant decision that I had to move out of lovely studio space.
It was May of 2014 when I noticed a sign on the outside of a historic (over a century old) building in downtown Edmonton, a comfortable half hour walk from my home.
Studios were located on the 3rd and 4th floors, in a variety of sizes. I was able to get a very generous space of over 400 square feet. That amount of space was very beneficial to me. Of course it meant that I didn’t have to clean up after every creative session, packing away wet materials and works in progress. It meant that I could set up separate work spaces for my two main painting medias: oil and acrylic.
The space gave me room to get, and keep, organized. A set of shelves, behind my work table and next to an easel were dedicated to my acrylic paints and media.
A similar set-up of shelves, table and easel on the other side of the room was dedicated to oils:
The space allowed me to work larger than I had been. Canvases of 3 by 4 feet (90 by 120 cm) became my standard and I assembled some even larger stretchers (but never did get around to putting canvas on them).
Even with the two work spaces, I still had lots of floor space to use when I needed to paint on the floor, to build stretchers or for varnishing.
In the end it was time to retreat to a much smaller home studio, disassembling shelves and stretchers and hauling out many carloads of supplies and many mostly-completed paintings
And in the end that highly creative space reverts to just a space.
A year later I can see ever so clearer how important that space was. Although I do have some space at home that I am re-converting into a working studio, progress has been very slow. I didn’t paint at all for half a year. Finally I cleared out a little space and created 3 works. Now I am back into re-organizing mode that will hopefully give me room for a couple of easels and two distinct little work areas (one for acrylics and one for oils, with a third, a small table for pastel work).
The other important function of that studio space was storage. I had lots of space for materials – for stretcher bars and canvas rolls, for primed canvases and boards, for paintings in various states of progress, completed works awaiting varnish and framing and exhibition-ready pieces. Now I have all these things stored around my house in different rooms, paintings stacked up, eight deep, against walls and bookshelves. My ultimate goal is to make my studio space just a working space – the storage issue is a whole other problem that I will have to address. I suppose someday it will all come together …
2013 March 8 – the Alberta Society of Artists (ASA) New Members Show Opening
It started about a year earlier when I submitted images of my recent paintings to the ASA in application for full member status. In April 2012 I received word that I had been juried-in as a full member.
One of the things the ASA does to welcome new members is to give them an opportunity to participate in an exclusive New Member’s show. This year it was at the Artpoint Gallery and Studio Society in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
I had brought my three paintings for the show, from my home in Edmonton to Calgary a few weeks before the show, when I had drove to Calgary for a meeting. I came back down to Calgary for the Opening but this time chose to travel by bus.
I walked from downtown to the Artpoint Gallery for the opening – a pleasant 25 minute stroll in the late afternoon sun of a springlike day. I arrived at the gallery a bit before six for the Opening which ran from 5 to 9. The gallery was pretty quiet at that time, but the crowds built as the evening progressed and the room was pretty full by 7 when the artists each spoke a bit about their work (or in the case of Shona Rae, did a fascinating story-telling performance).
I was one of 8 new ASA members showing in this exhibition. The others were:
When my turn came to speak, I spoke briefly about my background – a lifelong Albertan with a longtime interest in the visual arts including painting, photography and sculpting. I then said a few words about each of my three paintings in the show (all were painted in 2012 but representing different approaches):
acrylic on hardboard
61 by 91 cm (24×36 inches)
This work is an example of by approach of working plein air. This work was developed in the studio based on a small sketch that I had done on-site. The particular location of this was near the central Alberta community of Markerville but it depicts a fairly generic and common prairie/parkland scene on a summer afternoon, when the dark clouds roll in from the west.
acrylic on canvas
61 by 91 cm (24×36 inches)
This painting is an example of an increasingly common technique in my work, of using my own abstracted photographs as the inspiration and reference for abstracted landscapes. I use a technique of multiple second exposures while I move the camera to create the abstraction/simplification of the scene.
oil on canvas
46 by 46 cm (18x 18 inches)
This non-representational (abstract) work was one of a small series of exploration I began in October of 2012. The key feature of this series is the technique of drawing into the wet oil paint, using a variety of tools, to leave marks and reveal the underpainting.
All in all, it was a great evening – a chance for me to meet some artists and art lovers I had not known and see some interesting work. It was an opening to a good exhibition that I am proud to be part of.
The show runs until March 30th (2013) in Calgary.
Simplify – that is the message I took from Elizabeth Wiltzen, our group’s first-day instructor at the 2012 FCA workshop, on Salt Spring Island. (for an intro to this workshop, see my first post in the series). Liz is a very accomplished oil painter of landscapes, from Canmore (Alberta, Canada) who had worked in watercolors for years. Interestingly, she is also a life coach and an avalanche rescue (with dog) volunteer.
I liked the way Liz started off the workshop: encouraging, no demanding, that we drop any pressures (self imposed or imagined) to have to complete paintings during the week. We were there to learn, to experiment, to try and fail, but ultimately to grow. She joked that the “wet paint sale”, scheduled for the last day, was not happening. It was of course, but we were to act as if it wasn’t and not feel under any pressure to produce. I though this set a very good tone, not only for this day but for the entire workshop. I know I adopted that mindset and while I would get frustrated with a lack of quality output, I kept telling myself that I was there to learn and if I didn’t end up with even a single finished painting, that was okay – that thought settled me down on more than one occasion.
On this day, our group was on a beautiful private property, right on the south coast of the island, between Ruckle Park and Fulford Harbour. The views looking towards the water were particularly stunning. The views looking inland weren’t bad either, with fields, buildings, trees and rocks.
Liz started off with a good talk about her plein air painting equipment as she set it up for her first demonstration – of the exercise she wanted us to take on that morning. During that day we were given 2 exercises. That first one was to simply a scene to a few (5 to 10) large shapes and assign each shape one of just 5 values – and then paint it like that! This sort of exercise is nothing new but it was nonetheless very valuable. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by a scene, all the details and color. What this exercise demonstrated is the value of getting down good solid “bones”, an infrastructure for the painting! When you’ve got a believable value composition down, you are half way there!
On the right is my small painting resulting from that morning’s exercise – again the goal being to simplify shapes and values (and of course it is not as easy as it looks)!
The format of this first day of the workshop was typical of each day. We would get on site by 9 AM unload our gear and gather as a group (of about 25). Our instructor for the day would then give us a talk and demonstration (for maybe half an hour) and then we would scatter around the site to get down to painting. When done for the morning we would typically eat the lunch that we had brought and then gather as a group for the afternoon demonstration.
At our afternoon gathering, Liz demonstrated the exercise that she wanted us to try that afternoon. Still on the theme of simplifying. the challenge was to do a painting using just 50 strokes of the paintbrush. Well this was interesting – she made it look easy but of course it was not. A good starting point was to follow the lesson from the morning by establishing your composition with a limited number of large shapes. When it came to the painting, one trick (especially in the early stages), was to load up a paintbrush and without lifting it from the surface, sweep it all about to fill in the large shapes. Later strokes would be shorter and useful for adding highlights and providing definition to the painting. One of the unexpected challenges of this exercise is keeping track of the 50 strokes – once you get into the painting zone it is so easy to lose track of a simple thing like counting. Before I started painting I took a couple of pine cones and pulled off 50 scales, put the 50 markers in a pile.. Then after each painting stroke, I simply tossed away one of the scales – when they were all gone, my painting was “done” (“remember, it’s just an exercise”)!
It was a good first day with the exceptionally beautiful landscapes that I was expecting, great weather, a chance to meet a few of the people in my group and of course a couple of lessons in simplification that stuck with me through the week (and beyond).