Friday, 18 October 2019

Painting in Provence - encore the challenge.

Old Olive Grove
acrylic on paper - 8" x 8" 

Salut! I recently returned from a week of plein air painting in the Luberon Valley in Provence with Arts in Provence.  It was my sixth experience there and once again the landscape, weather, and food, were all fabulous as was the workshop tutelage provided this time by UK artist Vicki Norman. Since returning to Canada at the beginning of the month I have been mulling over the experience this time around. 

When I first went in 2012 I found plein air a physical (dragging your stuff around) and artistic (how to choose etc) challenge because at that point I was mostly a studio painter. 
After that first year (which you can read about here) I worked through those 'problems' and found my plein air voice, which evolved over time. In fact what I came to love about about plein air was the challenge of starting and finishing a small painting in 3 hours, not in a traditional plein air manner but rather in my own stylized way. The Provencal landscape gave me the light, vista, trees, vegetation shapes, and at times colour - however I have always lived by Matisse's idea that nature should inspire colour but not restrict it.

However, over the last year my work has moved towards greater abstraction in colour, form and subject, and so this time the challenge was how to work with the provencal landscape in a more abstract way but still suggest that sense of place. 

Having been an (trained professional) art teacher I am fairly critical of art teaching especially that provided by (well meaning professional) artists, because my experience has been mostly unsatisfactory. However, Vicki Norman is both a professional artist and a trained art teacher and was an excellent tutor. Her workshop demos and conversation helped me reassess my work and ways of painting in light of my move towards greater abstraction. I think it was exactly what I needed but didn't know it. Hah! The problem or put in a more positive way, the challenge of abstracting what you see means more of the artistic decisions are coming from your imagination, and it can become difficult to judge and critique your work effectively. Vicki reminded me of how all the elements and principles of design can and need to come into play, and how to put those things together. I like to think I do that intuitively, but now want to be more cognizant of that as I work. Which means I may have to work more slowly - but that goes back also to Louise Fletcher's ideas about experimenting lots to think about over the next few months! 

The little painting above was one I was really happy with because of the looseness of the brush strokes, broad shapes, limited palette and colour and value suggestive of the land at that time of year. 

The painting below is more colourful but again I am really happy with the simplicity of form and shape, all suggesting a vineyard sitting at the intersection of two country lanes with the Luberon hills behind.

9" x 8" - acrylic on paper


Saturday, 14 September 2019

Living in the Moment I and II

Living in the Moment I
16" x 16" - acrylic & pastel on paper - $95

Living in the Moment II
16" x 16" - acrylic & pastel on paper - $95
I recently listened to a podcast by UK artist Louise Fletcher in which she discussed the importance of experimenting and allowing yourself studio time to explore and discover where that leads your art making, without worrying about producing a finished painting at the end of the day and what others thought. I felt like she was speaking to me! Over the last year I have been experimenting more and more with abstraction and non-objective painting that relies more on intuition and the elements of art and design and less on specific recognizable subject matter. Believe me, the latter is far easier than the former. It's not that I don't want to paint (even abstracted) landscapes etc., it's just that I felt in need of a change in direction or re-examination of how and why I paint and make art. A re-boot. Perhaps the older I get the more I need to feast my eyes on beautiful arrangements of colour, line and shape rather than recognize a place or thing. I also wanted to scale up and work on larger surfaces which should not be daunting but it is.
With Louise's words in mind last weekend I set out to not worry about making a good painting, but to just enjoy the process and accept whatever happened. So I painted like crazy for many hours over two days and had the best time!!!
I started with 2 large 18"x18" pieces of made-for-acrylic-paint-paper taped side by side on a board set up on my easel then drew lines and some shapes with pastel, working across the two surfaces, treating them like one. Then I applied transparent and opaque layers of acrylic paint wherever it felt right. Didn't worry. I alternated between drawing and painting building up the surface using brushes, knives, scrapers, and then wiping some of it out, and repeating. Tried not to worry.
Here are some of the progress shots.....

In retrospect I am not sure why I worked on two surfaces rather than one larger one. I didn't necessarily intend to create a diptych. The masking tape separating the papers became covered with paint quite quickly and I began to see the two much more as one surface not two. This was interesting because a lot was happening in the middle of the composition (in terms of value) despite turning the board around and around trying to see each paper and the two together, from different perspectives.  

When I got to this point I decided it was time to stop because I really liked it! In looking at the one surface/composition I saw a central dark shape that seems to 'anchor' and 'hold up' the warmer, lighter, colourful shapes spreading out to the left and right. 
When I removed the tape and separated the two, naturally the single composition split in two and suddenly it was quite different from the way I had seen it and created it. I was a little disappointed with this loss but the advantage, was that I could turn each piece and look at it in whatever way I liked. They connect through colour and line etc. but are independent of each other too. 
I have now (temporarily) framed them as 'squares' and stood them on a table where I continue to enjoy them as well as turn them just to see different perspectives.  They are for sale, singly or together. 
It was a great painting experience and a process that I will continue to explore, but hopefully larger. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Garden Party

Garden Party
10.5" x 14" - acrylic, collage, pastel on paper - $75
I have recently been thinking about painting flowers, something I used to paint quite a lot in the past.  I decided to start with a wildly abstracted version of a flower garden, inspired by the bounty of colourful flowers that have bloomed all summer long. 
I love the colours of fall in Ontario, but it's sad to see the end of the summer colour. So why not have a Garden Party 
on your walls all year long?!

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Landscape Theme and Variation 4

Landscape Theme and Variation 4
7" x 11" - acrylic & pen on paper - $45

This is the fourth and final work in a small series of paintings based on one landscape idea, interpreted in different ways. Though I did paint it at the same time as the other works I wasn't sure if it needed 'more', so let it rest for a while. 
It is a little atypical to my usual acrylic painting style because the paint somewhat transparent in places, making the work look a little like a watercolour or a gouache painting. 
I like how it turned out and the feeling of 'lightness'.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Forest View

Forest View
8.5" x 10.5" - acrylic on paper - $45
      I like to play with 'parts' of unsuccessful paintings, the paintings that never see the light of day, but live on in my giant photo collection. Every so often I take one of those 'parts' and challenge myself with the task of  'what can I do with this'. 

      This little painting resulted from such a task-challenge. In fact, the part of the unsuccessful painting that I liked was actually vertical, not horizontal. The original inspiration for the long ago painting (one that I have used several times, successfully) is this....
       The task was to abstract the part I liked....and I ended up with this....

It still reads as a landscape, I think, and frankly works either way. I was quite happy with the finished painting, and love the shapes and the palette. 

Friday, 23 August 2019

Landscape Theme and Variation 1, 2 &3

I spent most of July at a cottage 'up north'. I only had minimal art supplies because I knew that I wouldn't really have anywhere to set up an easel and spread out, as I am want to do. I have already posted some abstracts that I painted then but I also did these 'variations on a landscape theme'. I was really happy with the way they turned out and the range of interpretation. Two of them have found their forever homes, however #1 is still available! Cheers.
#1 - 11" x 11" - acrylic on paper - $45

#2 - 11" x 11" acrylic on paper - SOLD

#3 - 11" X 11" acrylic on paper - SOLD

Thursday, 22 August 2019

French Cows are so Chic

French Cows are so Chic (my working title for now)
30" x 40" - acrylic on canvas - $600
A number of years ago I painted the landscape below and at the time I was quite happy with it. Over the years, however, I kept looking at those fleshy-coloured trees and wondered if I could improve upon their colour. I loved the lower half of the painting, basically a blue-purple abstract. But not those trees.

Try as I might, I could not come up with a better colour for those trees and a month ago I decide to just paint them out, and then see what happens......
The trees are gone, and colour has been intensified. Is this going to be a big non-objective painting, or an abstracted landscape? 
Not sure, kept painting.
Created some larger shapes. Still liking lots of different areas, but still unsure where it was going.
At this point I considered turning the whole composition into a highly stylized and abstracted 'still life', or 'figure', or 'animal',  by drawing their outline on the surface of the canvas and then painting out the negative space (which would then produce the positive shape). 
Thinking about animals, I thought of cows (which I have painted in the past) and found a great photo, taken on a trip to Brittany in 2017, of a group of curious holsteins. At the time these gals saw me at a distance and marched over to where the car was parked next to on the side of a country road. Fortunately there was also a fence separating us.  
Why not create a cow painting.....and that idea led to this, and finally the finished painting at the top of the post.
Good decision I think, all around, good challenge and fun painting