Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Highway 7 Revisited

Highway 7
16" x 16" - acrylic on canvas  - $200

Highway 7 - just where is that? Well it could be anywhere, but in this case it's the two lane section of that highway  in southwestern Ontario, linking the small cities of Guelph and Kitchener. The former is where I have lived for most of my working life, and the latter is where (well, near there) I worked when I was teaching visual art. It took me a half hour to drive the distance from home to school and then back again each day. I was always struck by the the way the fields and open spaces lining the road, appeared throughout the seasons and at different times of the day, and I always wished that I had the time to stop and at least take photos. Eventually I found the time and did take photos one fall, but I am not sure they really do the views justice. 
Combing through my photos last weekend I came across some of these images again and decided to paint a bold and colourful version in honour of summer. I take great pleasure in the words of Matisse (I think it was him, though I can't tell you where I saw the quote) that 'nature should inspire colour, but never restrict it'.  

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Olive Trees in the Luberon
16" x 20" - acrylic on canvas - $250

This is the third (and last for now) of paintings featuring olive trees, based on some of my photos from Provence. I have used essentially the same palette, but this painting is less abstract, and even feels a little Cezannesque. The colours make me think of spring, and the beautiful Luberon valley.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Olive Trees Near Saint-Remy

Olive Trees Near Saint-Remy
16" x 20" - acrylic on canvas - $250
 This is the second painting featuring olive trees, based on a photo I took near Saint-Remy de Provence. 

At the end of May I spent a week based in the delightful city of Arles, famous for its Roman ruins and it's connection with Vincent Van Gogh. From there we did day trips to various places in the region, including to the Saint-Paul de Mausole, a hospital or asylum near Saint-Remy de Provence. It's most famous patient was Vincent who spent a year there (after cutting off his ear), from May 1889 to May 1890. During his stay he painted over 150 canvases - many his best known and loved works.

"Saint-Paul began as an Augustine monastery in the 12th century, and was converted into an asylum in the 19th century. It is located in an area of cornfields, vineyards and olive trees and at the time was run by a former naval doctor, Dr. Theophile Peyron. Vincent's brother Theo arranged for him to have two small rooms there —one a bedroom and the other a studio. Though he entered the asylum voluntarily, Vincent was initially confined to the immediate asylum grounds and painted (without the bars) the world he saw from his room, such as ivy covered trees, lilacs, and irises of the garden. Through the open bars he could also see an enclosed wheat field, the subject of many paintings at Saint-Rémy. As he ventured outside of the asylum walls, he painted the wheat fields, olive groves, and cypress trees of the surrounding countryside, which he saw as "characteristic of Provence."  The imposed regimen of asylum life gave Vincent a hard-won stability: I feel happier here with my work than I could be outside. By staying here a good long time, I shall have learned regular habits and in the long run the result will be more order in my life."

It was quite inspiring to be in a an area where he had painted, and see some of the views he may have seen!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Pear Break

Pear Break
8" x 8" - acrylic on canvas - $95

I am besotted with painting olive trees at the moment. The first one (last post) was so much fun, that I immediately started a second which is almost finished. I started a third one this morning and it is well underway....but I needed a break from all that loose painting, so turned to a little still life, a pear break!  The colour in the actual painting is a little deeper and richer.....which is so much better than the opposite, I think.
Now it's back to the olive trees.....

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Olive Grove

Olive Grove
18" x 20" - acrylic on canvas with pastel markings - $250

I have been fascinated with olive trees for years. I love their gnarly trunks, and airy ethereal foliage of slim silvery leaves. It's the latter, however, that is a challenge to paint! I looked at Van Gogh's paintings of olive trees to understand how he resolved the problem - which of course he did through his wonderfully curving, broken, expressive brush strokes that are so distinctive and indicative of his style.

When unsure of 'next steps', but still willing to experiment with the composition and design, I often get out my soft pastels and draw on top of the painting surface, simplifying shapes, breaking up space, and adding surface markings. With the addition of these marks, I always feel less inhibited about moving away from the original image (this was based on a photo of olive trees) and feel free to add and change the elements to make a better painting. The addition of the pastel lines and the shapes they created suggested ways to simplify the foliage into abstract shapes. I brushed and scumbled on paint, and restricted my palette to a split complementary colour scheme. The process was highly intuitive and I stopped when it felt finished. As I took quite a few photos of olive trees in Provence - this may be the star of a new series!

Friday, 4 July 2014

A Trio of Still Life of Objects

12" x 10" -  acrylic on wood panel - $95

This was another demo I did in the Acrylic Techniques Workshop. I started with a cadmium red ground, and tried to restrict my palette to cool colours (blue, green, violet), but of course felt too restricted, and had to get out the yellow. I really like the composition and the way the object fill the space. I enjoy painting on wood panels from time to time. The way the wood surface accepts the paint is quite different than on canvas, and so my brushwork is quite different too.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Imagining Ventoux

Imagining Ventoux 
10" x 8"  - acrylic on wood panel - $95

I painted this as a demo in a recent day-long workshop I held in my studio, teaching Acrylic Techniques. I was quite pleased with the finished painting and added some pastel marks as a finishing touch. It reminds me of Mont Ventoux, the mountain in Provence with the distinctive white face - which is not snow, but white stone.