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