The non-representational (abstract) painting series which I called “Earth Light Tapestries was my largest and most deliberate series. I began the series in late 2006 and finished in early 2007. A dozen pieces from this series were exhibited in a solo show at the Milner Library in Edmonton in November of 2009.
From the start, I set out with the goal to paint 24 pieces, each which would be 24 by 24 inches (61 x 61 cm) in size. I used acrylic paints with the intent to be experimental with textures and additives. The “earth” in the series title refers to the “earth” pigments (ochres, umbers, sienna, etc.) that dominated the colors through this series.
The pieces were just given numerical titles (in roman numerals) corresponding to the order in which they were created.
The “sand” reference in “IV” comes from the texture which was created by the mixing a fine sand into the paint and gel media.
The rest of the pieces in this painting series are presented in Parts 2 and 3 of this blog post series.
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.
It was a beautiful sunny morning after a couple of cooler days. It was also my last opportunity to gather some plein air images for printing. What type of landscape I wanted to capture, I wasn’t sure, but I was confident I’d know it when I saw it.
Perhaps a receding fenceline? Or a grassy field backed by the forest: Maybe a bending path: Or a little creek There’s a tree with some character worth capturing: Maybe some wild flowers? A path through the shaded woods? Ah finally, this is it: A colorful edge of a field with some attractive curving lines. I walked up and down the bit of trail overlooking this scene. There was no great place to sit so I chose a spot in the grass at the side of the trail. I got out my watercolor paint sticks and yupo sheet and sat down. But, What’s that … an ant? No not AN ant, hundreds of them. The ground was swarming with them. They were soon all over the supplies that I had set down on the ground and before I knew it they were also crawling over me! I picked up my stuff and frantically started brushing off the ants as I got the heck out of there. My initial thought was to move along and find a nearby place to try again – but I was spooked! I ended up deciding to just collect some photos for future reference and head back to the (safety and comfort of the) studio.
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.
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.