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.
On Day 4 of our Series “Colour in the Landscape” course we again started our day by meeting in the classroom for a critique. By mid-morning we were off to a park within the City of Red Deer to do our painting (or in my case, again capturing photos for later studio painting). Many in the class were still anxiously looking forward to painting the iconic, bright yellow canola fields. From our base at Red Deer’s RiverBend Park we were able to find canola fields and much more.
At the name of the park would suggest this area is by a river, enclosed by a large loop in the river. The area has a golf course, a naturalized water park, lots of wooded areas and abundant vista including the river and surrounding farmlands. There was so much of interest I didn’t know where to start so I walked around with my camera (again). I got lots of ideas and references for paintings but never did pull out my paints or sketch book in my few hours there.
After a few hours wandering around down in the valley I headed back up to the plain on my way back to the studio at Red Deer College. There I found some great vistas of rolling prairie with bright yellow canola fields. A couple of our class members were set up next to the road paintings these awesomely colorful scenes.
Back at the studio my mid-afternoon, I continued work for a couple of hours on the canvases that I’d started earlier.
That evening featured a much-looked-forward-to event that happens every Thursday evening during the Series program – the show of student works from the week. All of the classes (something like 10 of them) have a display of what has been accomplished in just 4 days. It is awesome!
After the evening’s events it was back to the studio for another hour or two for me. Not too many people took advantage of the evening availability of the studio but as I had spent so much of my daytime with the camera I was very grateful to have the opportunity.
Wednesday 2011 July 13, the third day of Red Deer College Series course “Colour in the Landscape”, with Dave More.
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.
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):
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Occasionally I will use a digital “filter” from Color Efex Pro to coax out a unique effect.
A full moon, slow exposure and panning the camera provided the basis for this Rothkoesque image:
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:
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:
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.