In August of 2012 I started a small series of large canvases. This series of abstract paintings were all done on 91 by 121 cm (3 x 4 feet) canvasses. I used generous amounts of gel with the acrylic paints for think, juicy textures. The color palette was restricted to the primaries, plus black and white.
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:
In my previous blog post I shared a series of my landscape paintings of scenes from Canada’s west coast. Again, these were painted around 1992, in fact these paintings were intermingled with the more open coastal scenes done during the same period.
In around 1992 after visits to Canada’s west coast (particularly the Gulf Islands), I produced, perhaps my favorite series of paintings. This collection featured trees(and/or driftwood), shorelines and often active skies. My works at this time may show signs of influence from the paintings of Emily Carr.
In the early 1990’s I did a series of paintings of the Riverdale community, in Edmonton’s river valley.
One of the most distinguishing features of the community at the time was the large, undeveloped tract of land that belonged to the historic Little Brick factory, By the end of the decade those fields would be redeveloped to look like suburbia, but at the time it lent a rural charm to this area, just a kilometer from downtown.
A decade and half later I would revisit this series with a few more paintings of the community:
The 24th (final) piece in this series was completed in July 2007, about 8 months after the start. About half of the series formed a solo exhibition at the Gallery at Milner (Library in Edmonton) in November of 2009.
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 the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the subject matter of my painting was primarily landscapes, and more specifically the prairies, parkland and foothills of central part of Alberta.
The creation of my first painting series (a group of works based on a common theme and style), was an important point for my artistic development. In August of 1984 I attended a “Painting in France” course put on by Paul Deggan (in conjunction with Capilano College in Vancouver). I and three other students stayed at Deggan’s home / art studio in the small, medieval village of Montaigut-le-Blanc in central France (the Auvergne region). For three weeks (after a week in Paris) we explored and painted this picturesque village (with it’s old chateau, a church and village walls) and surrounding rural areas.
The paintings in Part 1 of this series blog post are works that were painted “en plein air”, right there looking directly at the scene.
A number of other paintings were created as part of this series but they were done after the trip, back in the studio, from sketches and reference photos. These other paintings are featured in part 2 of this blog.
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
I am participating again in the Twitter Art Exhibit. I mailed my postcard-sized painting today. It should comfortably get to New York by the March 11 deadline.
Here’s an image of my piece, entitled “Restless”:
This, the sixth, Twitter Art Exhibit runs March 31 to April 21 (2016) at the Trygve Lie Gallery in New York City.
Like all of the preceding Twitter art exhibitions, the works are donated by artists from around the world and sold, with proceeds going to charity. There is no theme for the exhibit (the only thread connecting the exhibit is that all of the artists are on Twitter), so the range of works is mind boggling. To get a feel for the diversity, look inside the book featuring the works from the 2014 Twitter Art Exhibit that was held in Orlando.
The first Twitter Art Exhibit was held in 2010 in Moss, Norway, the hometown of founder David Sandum (@DavidSandumArt), after he called upon his many international artist friends on Twitter. The rest as they say is history.
My Twitter handle is: @RandallTT
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 …
It has become quite common (an pretty much acceptable) for artists to paint from photographic references rather than from a model in the studio or from a landscape “en plein air”. But do photographs have any value to an “abstract” painter? Well, for me they certainly do. One of my favorite forms of photography is abstractions, especially those that push to the edge of non-representational-ism. Through the use of camera-motion and long exposures, with a bit of post-processing to enhance colors and contrast (and some cropping), I regularly come of with images that I will use to inspire my paintings. Here are some recent examples (all are photographs) that I can’t help thinking would make dramatic largish paintings on canvases/boards/paper in acrylic, oil or pastel.
My painting are yet to come out of any of these images and I’m not sure how related the final work might appear in comparison to these references but some day I shall tackle them.
It might be said that a curator (of an art exhibition) is doing their job when they aren’t even noticed or thought about by the visitor to an exhibit. Most of the time, I never give any thought to who the curator was or how well they did their job. The exhibit either works and I enjoy it (the art work presented) or it doesn’t really make an impression on me so I just move on.
Last week though, while visiting the Vancouver Art Gallery, I found myself thinking “This shouldn’t be working but it does – Who curated this?”
The exhibit I refer to is “Emily Carr and Landon Mackenzie: Wood Chopper and the Monkey“, described in the exhibition guide:
Engaging in a dialogue with the work of eminent British Columbia artist Emily Carr, Vancouver-based painter Landon Mackenzie presents three thematically arranged galleries with more than 50 artworks that collectively span over 100 years of landscape paintings by these two artists.
Why I was skeptical about this exhibition working is because I hold Emily Carr in such high esteem. I couldn’t imagine presenting her work with anyone but, say Tom Thomson or the Group of Seven members. Landon Mackenzie is a contemporary artist, born in 1954, whose work while including some landscape elements also extends to large abstract paintings that at first glance would seem to have no way of being connected to Carr’s work. Somehow though, the juxtaposition of the work of these two artists works and delivers and pleasing and meaningful experience.
This exhibit runs at the Vancouver Art Gallery from 2014 September 20 to 2015 April 6. Incidentally this exhibit is the fourth in a series of exhibitions pairing Carr’s work with that of contemporary artists from the region. It was the first one that I’ve seen (or was even aware of) but my interest is piqued.
Oh, yes, the curator? Grant Arnold, Audain Curator of British Columbia Art – BRAVO!
I’ve always felt that plein air painting is the ultimate but I’ve never done enough of it to really feel comfortable. Hopefully that will change now that I’ve outfitted myself with equipment that allows me to take-off on my mountain bike with my painting gear. While riding around the river valley here in Edmonton I’ve often noticed views that cried out to be painted. Until know I have had to be satisfied with taking a quick reference photo and then working up a painting in the studio.
The first piece in the puzzle was the pochade, a self contained studio-in-a box. I have long heard of the Guerrilla Painter line of plein air boxes and after much deliberation decided to go with their 9 x 12 inch pochade. I wanted something as big as possible but it had to be small enough to carry on my bike. That meant I had to face the limitation of the bike bag (pannier) that I would use. At first I did not think I’d be able to find a bag to accommodate the 9×12 box and so had been thinking I’d have to go with the 6×8 box. But I did find a pannier at Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) that I thought would work – but it didn’t. Even though the dimensions of the bad were adequate the opening at the top was just a tad too small – the bag wouldn’t stretch and the wooden box can’t compress to fit through the opening. I returned that bag and picked up another one (the Urban Shopping Tote) which had a large top opening and ample room inside (not only for the pochade box but also for my collapsible stool).
It looks like the bike may be side-heavy with the bag/box on just the one side but I noticed nothing unusual in the bike handling as I was riding. I set off down the bike paths and then dirt trail within Edmonton’s river valley arriving at a place about 10K from home that I had long wanted to paint. It is a little pond set on a flat section, half way down the river bank.
Having picked my scene, I got set up to paint. The pochade and stool came out of my bike bag easily and set up quickly.
I had decided, for this first test run, not to use a tripod to support the pochade box since I’d prefer to travel light and not to have to carry a tripod. One thing I quickly discovered was that I couldn’t just support the pochade on my lap. I ended up sitting on my stool with one leg crossed up over the other to give me a more stable platform. This worked reasonably well but was not the most comfortable position and it did not allow me to easily back away from the painting to get the big picture of how it was coming along.
At one point I did put the pochade upon my stool so I could back-up and take a look. Another lesson was learned at that point. The stool is not the most stable thing.
As I got a few paces back, I saw not only my painting and the inspirational scene but in slow motion, I watched as the stool collapsed and my pochade box fell and dumped its contents at the edge of the pond.
Fortunately there was no damage – the canvas stayed in the lid and none of my paints or other equipment actually hit water. I picked everything up and put the finishing touches on my painting.Considering that the point of this day’s outing was to test my equipment rather than produce a great painting, I was moderately satisfied with the canvas. I used a limited palette: alizarin crimson, Winsor yellow, olive green, and cobalt blue with an alkyd mixing white. The mixed colors turned out muddier than I would have liked but were probably representative of reality. In the end I wasn’t too pleased with the value range – it seemed pretty dynamic in the field but after the fact it looks very flat and the darks just are not very dark. Both of these issues though I can work on and if I do a larger work based on this sketch I expect that I can and will improve the color saturation and values.
I am already looking forward to my next plein air excursion on the bike. I will take along a tripod to hold the pochade box and also will experiment with different clothing, that might be a bit better for both cycling and painting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This Path sketch would be the inspiration for an acrylic painting done in the studio later in the week.
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.