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 

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Hollyhock Garden 'Flower Children'

Flower Children
36" x 36" - acrylic on canvas - SOLD
I actually painted this work over a month ago - I was on a bit of a roll then - but needed to let it rest for a while to make sure that no further work was necessary.
When I looked at it two weeks ago, I knew it was done, yeah! However I have been so busy painting other things  that I haven't found the time to write and post. 

I hate to admit this, but Instagram is faster.
BTW - you can find me on IG - patriciamacdonaldart

Anyway, this was a really fun one to paint and best of all I stayed loose and painterly. It's inspired by a photo of a hollyhock garden which I have painted other variations of, but this was the biggest and most expressive. I was really happy with the palette, the brushstrokes, the marks and the stylization.
It's now on its way to a new home in Nova Scotia. 
Thank you Maryl!

Monday, 29 July 2019

Sweet Spot IV

Sweet Spot IV
7"x7" - acrylic on paper - $30
The last of four paintings done at the same time.
Now, just need to scale up - and that's when it gets scary, as in scary fun, lol.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Sweet Spot II

Sweet Spot II
7" x 7" - acrylic on paper - $30
This is the second of the four small paintings created at one go, on one piece of paper divided into four sections. No subject here - just intuitive painting.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Sweet Spot I

Sweet Spot I
7" x 7" - acrylic on paper - $30
A few days ago I masked off four more or less equal sections of a large piece of paper designed for acrylic paint, thinking I would paint four small works, at once. I didn't have any particular idea or subject in mind, I just wanted to play with composition, colour and marks and thus painted intuitively as much as possible. 
Below is what the larger paper looked like when done. 
I wanted to stick to 'the less is more' mantra, and believe I stopped at the right moment. I have to say that I love the resulting four small paintings, the first of which is above. 

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Summer Sizzle

Summer Sizzle
12"x12" - acrylic on canvas - $45
     This one is all about line, shape and colour - and you can probably tell what is what in this little stylized landscape. 
    Hope wherever you are, your summer is turning out to 
be a good one.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Wind in Her Sails

Wind in Her Sails
12" x 16" - acrylic on paper - $75
This stand of trees has been an inspiration for many past paintings and perhaps because I am staying on Redstone Lake in Haliburton, it's summer and I am in close proximity to the little island on which the trees sit, it spoke to me once more - or maybe I just returned to tried and true imagery - and had some painting fun once again. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Harlequin Reverie

Harlequin Reverie
24" x 30" - acrylic on canvas - $450
This is my new favourite painting, but I do have to say that several recent works are also in this category LOL! That's a good thing, yes? This one in fact falls into the re-done category. 
Several years ago I painted this work....
.....and was happy with it at the time. I particularly loved the lower half of the composition, its abstract nature and of course the pink- hued palette. However, it did not sell, and was moved around my house, my studio and finally into a dark corner. 
Recently I took another look at it after painting 'Playing with Blocks' (another one I love) and saw how I could keep some of the lower bits, maintain the palette, and re-work the top half into something far more interesting
I started by basically blotting out the blue trees, then drew overtop of the composition with a pastel to creating varied tonal/dark and light shapes that implied space, and finally just started painting. 
After about a week of looking at it and really liking it, I realized that it reminded me of the work of Joan Miro, the Spanish surrealist painter whose work you can see here. It wasn't until I had been away for a couple of weeks and then saw it with refreshed eyes that the word 'harlequin' popped into my head and I realized that it was Harlequins Carnival I was connecting to. There is much joy to be found in Miro's famous painting, and I feel the same happiness when I look at mine. In case you are wondering, my harlequins are the round striped shapes moving in a dream-like landscape. They are more abstract rather than anthropomorphic. 'Reverie' means a state of being pleasantly lost in one's thoughts; a daydream. 
Hence the title. Enjoy!

BTW - the colour you see in the painting posted is almost perfect - but reds are difficult to capture exactly, so please know that the work is more red than orange, and much better in life.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Deep Dark Woods

Deed Dark Woods
8" x 9" - acrylic on heavy wc paper - $45
The last of the 6 small paintings done in a day, about a week ago. I can't find or even recall the photo which inspired this scene but I do like the freshness, brush strokes, colour palette and intimacy of the space.  Stay tuned for some larger canvas paintings that took me many, many days to complete!
Have a good one.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

PEI Escape

PEI Escape
8" x 10" - acrylic on heavy wc paper - $45
PEI is Prince Edward Island, home of Anne of Green Gables, red soil, friendly people, beautiful beaches, lobster dinners, and so much more. It is a very special place and if you have not been, put it on your list! Several years ago I did a road trip with our daughter and snapped photos, of course. This small painting is based on one of those. The clouds were so fabulous that day that they need to be painted again and again. Cheers!

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Dancin' Trees

Dancin' Trees
9" x 11" - acrylic on heavy wc paper - $45.
This small painting is really a variation on a theme, inspired by the photo image below. 

This image was the starting point for two recent larger canvas paintings......

Regeneration   sold
.......but of course one idea tends to breed others, and so I wanted to try a more extreme variation; painting on paper, using a 'hot' palette and loose brushstrokes resulted in this. I think the trees are dancin', don't you?

Friday, 19 July 2019

Summer Haze

Summer Haze
9" x 11" - acrylic on heavy wc paper - $45
Another of the quick painting series. All of these subjects are ones I have wanted to paint, and it has been great to 'try them out' on paper before committing to canvas and a larger scale.  

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Rockin' the Shoreline

Rockin' the Shoreline
acrylic paint on wc heavy paper - 8" x 9.75" - $45
This is another small painting started and completed in the 'fast and loose' painting session from yesterday. Each in this group of 6 is quite different from the others, intentionally, as I had a number of ideas that I wanted to try out without a big time and material commitment. This one reminds me of a very large (4'x6') painting hanging in my living room (but is only about 85% complete - yes another  one of those not-quite-finished-paintings  - but at least the group is starting to shrink) in that there are lots of dark outlines around small and large colour patches and when seen together make up this wonderful kaleidoscope of a landscape. Here is the work in progress...

I think this small painting has some potential for being worked up into a larger canvas, and if that happens, I will definitely get the other one done too. There are just so many things to paint!!!! Love the line, shape and pattern here, and of course the palette of pinks and greys. 

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Hot Fun in the Summertime

Hot Fun in the Summertime
acrylic on heavy wc paper - 10" x 10" - $45
I have been away from my studio for 2 weeks and did not bring many painting materials with me, however I finally broke down and bought some heavy watercolour paper and liquid acrylics yesterday and have had the best day of play, today! Six paintings in 6 hours. I started 6 paintings and then moved back and forth between them and all were done in about 6 hours. 
Here is the first - hope you like it!

Saturday, 29 June 2019

On the Edge of Abstraction

On the Edge of Abstraction
16" x 16" - acrylic on canvas - $90
An abstracted landscape of 'grounds' or sections, that move back in space towards the distant horizon and sky, with each section suggesting fields, landforms, and so on. I painted it almost entirely with a palette knife, creating lots of hard edges, many of which were then softened with a brush. 
Have to say I love how it turned out and the vibrant colour scheme! 

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Letting in the Light

Letting In the Light
18" x 24" - acrylic on canvas - $350
    I have been painting a lot in the last few weeks, but not posting anything, anywhere. I usually work on a couple of paintings at a time, for a bunch of reasons, and eventually they all seem to 'get done' about the same time. Then I need to live with them in order to see if they need more work or are really 'done'. So now it's time to post and show off all the good stuff.
    This work was actually one that I painted years ago after a trip to Scotland several years ago. 2015? You can see the earlier version below. Recently I realized how I could take it further. It seemed to be waiting for me to develop a more abstract vision, which I have been working at over the last few months. So it's not so much a 'redo' as a 'continuation'. The earlier version featured lots of wet paint and drips, which was fun to do. The new work is structurally and compositionally tighter (grids and lines sort of do that automatically) but there is lots of scumbling and areas of colour graduation and variety. The colour shapes and 'lines are only suggested. Love this one, it really does have a special light quality!

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Squaring Off

Squaring Off
10" x 10" - acrylic on canvas - $65.
I painted this a couple of months ago but had a hard time getting the shape just below the 'sky' the right colour. In my recent frenzy of finishing paintings that were almost done, I took another stab at it and finally the wee problem was resolved.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Playing With Blocks

Playing With Blocks
24" x 30" - acrylic on canvas - $450
In the winter of 2018 I was taking a 'Master Class' in Sarasota Florida and was experimenting with de-constructing the landscape into shapes of colour (think Richard Diebenkorn).  I eventually painted the work below, hung it in my house and this winter it sold to friends. 

In April I started a landscape that was very loosely based on a photo reference and the following progress shots show how it developed into the final painting. 
I really liked the potential in the beginning........

but by this point I hated everything about it! What to do....????
with nothing to loose.....I decided to abstract it by breaking the composition down into large rectangular  shapes using a soft white pastel to draw the lines... .
..then I began to see the potential (again) and kept painting, re-defining those shapes through colour and gradation.
Of course the work grew tighter as I painted but I liked the shapes so much that I went with it.  Eventually I added the tiny pieces of collage paper, which are more visible in the the detail below. The idea was to suggest that these colour shapes are lifting up and off the canvas.  
Have to say that I love the finished painting and am really excited about exploring these ideas further.....hope you like it too!