What shape is your block?…

“a memory of walking with your grandmother through the meadow past the red barn to the orchard where you picked ripe apples, while laughing at the golden lab named Milton as he chased that crazy squirrel”

What shape is your block?

It’s calm, the morning dew hangs from long alpine grass while a low cloud lays lazily over the lake, it’s head on the northern shore. A bank of trees slopes in from the left, the sun just kissing their tops. The mountain slopes steeply from behind and scree forms fingers reaching into the cold glacial water. On the right? Well, nothing on the right and there’s a funny looking log hanging off a drab rock like a shipwrecked sailor.

I move on.

This happens several times. I look at different variations of the scene from alternate vantage points. Crop that out. I need to see more of this and less of that. I walk along the shore looking intently for nothing in particular but waiting for what I always wait for – the artistic sense detector to start clicking with more feverish activity. It’s kind of like that old childhood game we used to play – “your getting warmer….waaaarmer….REALLY HOT! Oh, colder, colder…. ice cold.”

Maybe there’s a subconscious art director in my head that directs me to move this way and that while not really telling me what it’s looking for until it finds it. The best scene of the bunch.

But based on what?

Where did this sense come from? What shaped it? Remember the blocks in different shapes and the board that had the corresponding holes activity we had when very young? I watched my children play it. Round hole, round peg! Yay! This is what it’s like I believe. We have developed a particularly complex shaped block based on many different influences. What art our parents, friends and mentors liked. What we read and watched and what art caught our uniquely personal eye. The shaft of light coming through the kitchen window, lighting the coffee cup and bagel on the table. Or simply the flowers in the crystal vase on the sill.

Something shaped our artistic sense. The like of a particular palette or style or subject matter was something shaped from birth and developed over years or decades. Events that had meaning for us whether positive or negative that move us in a particular direction. An art show, or a performance. An accident, a garden, a death, a birth, a sunset, a memory of walking with your grandmother through the meadow past the red barn to the orchard where you picked ripe apples, while laughing at the golden lab named Milton as he chased that crazy squirrel.

These moments over our lifetime. These inputs that our brains gather and fold or toss away. Large shapes, small shapes? Colorful or muted? Dark or bright, still life, landscape, portrait or figure. Formal or informal? Soft or hard, warm or cool. Combinations of each in thousands of possibilities.

There’s a reason we prefer certain things and dislike others. It’s something I’ve been wondering about. Why the landscape? What not flowers? What about abstracts? Portraits?

Well the landscape is obvious to me as my influences were all landscape artists early on mainly my grandfather as he was a landscape painter. I also have a had a deep connection to the landscape, especially the more intimate places where I feel alone, and connected. One reason why the “Grand Vista” has never played a big role in my art; I like a place nestled in the woods where I feel protected. Close to waterfalls or small open spaces with boulders or a small creek. I like swamps or small mountain lakes. I love the texture of nature close up. I need to paint more of this.

Flowers? They hold no particular sway with me. I mean, there nice to look at and may pose a challenge and I really admire those that can paint them well but it’s one subject that I’ll probably not bother with.

Abstracts? Simple…fear.
Portraits? Same thing.

So? What shape is your block?

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

9×12

Oil on Canvas board

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There weren’t many rocks to sit on let alone have room for an easel. So already I felt hampered. I found a spot after a awhile and managed to wedge my tripod into a shape resembling an octopus after a few shots of tequila. Pretty unstable. Patti set up below which was the best spot because she was a few minutes ahead of me. She also didn’t have to change out of her long underwear which involved heading out into the woods and trying to find a suitable spot where I could take off my boots, pants and sit down without being attacked by a rogue stick.

We didn’t have a lot of time as our ride out was leaving promptly at 4pm. We arrived hot and winded after climbing steps built by Lawrence Grassi shortly after noon and I was set up by one. It only took an hour for me to settle down to work.
The falls themselves were backlit by a very harsh sun and it was difficult to determine the values let alone get them down properly. I was also struggling with the mountain in the back and it took several attempts to get the right shape and proportion. After the big shapes were in place it was then down to adjusting values and colors.

I had most of what I needed by the time we had to start packing up. It was three when we started the hike back down which took a total of 45 minutes.

This is one painting which needed a fair amount of adjusting back in the studio. The mountain needed a lot of work and the values (as I suspected) were not correct. I was about 70% of the way there from the plein air but the entire lower section required a bit more developing. The waterfall itself I worked in stages by painting over what I had roughed in on site. Darks (wet rock) was laid in first and left to dry then I was able to start building over the top of this base with direct strokes and same dry brushing.

I was pleased with the outcome of this one as my original reference photograph was not the best. There was lens flair and I had to use a couple of different images to see all the areas I had included in the composition. There was a good deal of imagination and “artistic license”.

Happy painting all!

Lake McArthur

Lake McArthur

9×12

Oil on Canvas Board

When your in the Elizabeth Parker Hut there is no such thing as privacy or lounging around. You pretty much get up when the group gets up. The group I refer to is the other twenty five some odd soles who start the day off from the two trays of souls that make up the two “beds”.

This was the day we decided to head up to Lake MacArthur which I didn’t do last year and thought it was the best idea considering I had no better ideas in which to indulge in this delicious smorgasbord of nature. I was relying on my more experienced travellers and from what I saw from Odaray the day before I could hardly wait.

It was a 7.5 kilometre round trip with 310 meters of elevation gain through some beautiful scenery. This is really not saying much as it’s all beautiful scenery.

As far as the weather goes? Let’s just say it’s your typical day in the mountains. A bit of everything. Some sun, some rain, and a bit chilly. I set up under a tree to keep as dry as possible. The moss was a nice cushion. I also had a visitor who was trying to find something for lunch.

I probably got in about a half an hour before Patti came by saying she was packing it in and I decided that I would join her. We took a different route out which made it more of a circuit and added something new to look at and take pictures of for possible paintings.

Once back at the hut, the weather was more on the plus side and I thought to myself that I should try to finish the painting under the eaves of Wiwaxy. I used my memory as well as a photo that I took on the phone for reference.

Odaray

Odaray

We awoke to a gloomy morning. No rain but the threat hung, looming. Boiling water and steam, the smell of coffee and tea, eggs from a carton. Maple too. No bacon sadly. Stepping outside into the brisk morning air and seeing the hardy adventurers looking forward to the rewards that await the day.

The sun pushed hard through the thick cloud and lit a sliver of the mountain to the north. A welcoming of sorts. An invitation.

We pretty much all decided to go to where the sun laid God’s finger… Odaray. One of the most amazing hikes but not without its price. A steep wildlife corridor with limited group access only. We were in Grizzly habitat.

Sadly, we didn’t see any wildlife at all but the views were mind blowing.

No painting today but a glimpse from high up on this amazing hike where we would be painting tomorrow; McArthur.

Enjoy the pics.

The Pond at the End of the Lake…

The Pond at the end of the Lake – Lake O’Hara

Painting #2

9×12 Oil on Canvas Board

When I look at the time stamps on the photographs, I’m amazed that I am seeing Patti and Patricia painting at the edge of Lake O’Hara at 4:00pm. Within 18 minutes I’m set up and ready to paint my second painting of the afternoon. I had been drawn to this spot on last years trip but for whatever reason decided not to set up there. This time was different. I had to acknowledge there was something within me that said “here is where you paint” I didn’t have a whole lot to say about it. I set up.

First off, I knew I didn’t have much time. I felt sunset approaching and I knew I had to get things down quickly. An interesting side note; I decided right off the bat that whatever I got down would be better than getting nothing down at all. It was simply an exercise or practice.

I knew I was drawn to the scene although it wasn’t your typical landscape. Slightly off kilter and subtlety obscure. I liked the bush nestled in the trees at the end of the pond. I liked the contrast. I liked the water, the bush, the trees, the mountain, and the subtle nudge it gave me. It would work.

“You need to listen more” myself whispered to…myself.
Pay attention to the direction I give you.

I listened. I tried with whatever I had, to get this down. This was a local contrast problem. There was no extra light. No sprite to help me out. I had to PUSH what I had. What was important? Obviously the bush was what drew me in. I needed to get that down and the mountain in behind was playing a pretty big role. The water was supporting actress while the trees were somewhat below that. There was a lot of information to get in and I had recently learned how to get rocks down. Paint the bulk of the rocks in the shadow tone and then add the mid, followed by the highlight. So I was able to get them in pretty quick. The rest fell into place easily as they were large masses. Everything was in shadow so much and my original values were not where I wanted them to be. Overall, I was on the dark side and I adjusted them in the studio. It’s still a shadowy piece of work. I think the thing I like the most about it is the fairly loose application of paint and the unusual composition and subject matter. It’s not usually what I paint.

I worked until the cold took over and I packed up and headed for the hut where my Jartini awaited. It was a great day filled with great people. Bliss really. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if Alice and Bill could have been there with us. All in all, I love the mountains, I love the small scenes that sing so loudly, but most of all, I love the friends I paint with.

Cathedral Painting…

Cathedral Mountain – Lake O’Hara

Painting #1

9×12 Oil on Canvas Board

It was the first of four paintings done over two and a half days at Lake O’Hara in early September. I don’t know why it takes me so long to get these out. It probably has something to do with the fact that Patti is talking again about our next trip to O’Hara. Anyway, after getting up to our humble abode and getting our spaces claimed by laying our sleeping bags in just the right spot we started the process of figuring out where we were going to paint first. So many options and half the day was gone. We decided to take the long and arduous journey, trekking about thirty five feet from EP Hut.

The subject?… Cathedral Mountain.The painters? Patti Dyment, Sharon Lynn Williams, Patricia Allan, and myself.

Everybody but me set up right in the grounds around the hut. The trodden and packed earth of so many explorers while I, of course had to find a different view and of this wonderful mountain. I went this way, and then that, then up there and then over to that other spot. Down to a mostly dried up pond and then back to where everyone else was. Just off the beaten path. By the time I had set up Cathedral had dawned a white shawl and I could no longer see her head, her shoulders hunched amongst the clouds. I had to use my memory and the only photo I had taken which didn’t show much more but it was at least something.

This time I wanted to try something a bit different and painted the general shape of her in black, gestured in the sky with line and dropped my trees in. I was trying to work quickly which has always proven to be elusive. The mid tones kinda came next which is a bit backwards from the way I’m used to working which is lay in the whole thing with darkest darks and lightest lights and then start the mids. This was the darks, up into the mids and then add the highlights.

I was a bit frustrated by the lack of light! There was lots around the hut but nothing up on the mountain. I was waiting… and waiting for SOMETHING to happen up there but nothing. Then, in the mid-ground, a bright spot of light illuminated a natural devision between the left and right portions of the frame. Some nice greens and the snow leading into the foreground. Finally.

I mixed some color and dropped in the effect which proved to be wonderful and a much needed kiss on a pretty bland date. She responded affectionately. But within a couple of minutes the glow was gone, replaced with the dullness of too brief an encounter. I looked at my canvas and was pleased to see that it had actually happened. Albeit, a little tepid in execution. Maybe this little flirtatious sun sprite would be back I thought. I continued working on the mountain. Then decided to get a more defined foreground in. A bit of cold snow mixed with the late fall grass.

It was coming along nicely I thought and just when I was about to call it quits, there she was again, dancing back and forth between grass and forest, she opened up and let her light shine on the tall pines and the meadows edge. I once again, having the color mixed, adjusted the value and and tried to capture this little angel but as I put brush to canvas she seemed to sense she was being watched and slowly, began to fade once again leaving me wanting.

I looked at what I had made and felt some success for this first painting. I really liked the way the sky worked with the mountain and the way I rendered the snow. I liked the way the, by putting the masses in very darkly followed be the mids, that there was that outline around base shape of Cathedral. I was mostly thankful that I had been visited by a sun sprite just when I thought all was lost to gloom and local contrast.

We all packed up and made the thoroughly exhausting journey back to the hut for some tea and a bite. After looking at everyone’s work we all agreed we had a great start to our trip.

Our discussions quickly turned to where to paint after our break. Somewhere down by the lake we thought…

Assiniboine 2017: Three Paintings Over Two Days…

This year I was lucky enough again to be a part of the annual PleinAir trip to mount Assiniboine organized by my artist friend Patti Dyment. Along for the adventure were Pat and Bob Allin, Michele Austen, and I had the added pleasure of bringing my son Sam along (he was going to fish). It was a bit touch and go as to whether or not we were even going to be able to go because of forest fires in the area and the park had been closed twice due to the danger. But when the time came, we were lucky enough to have the main portion of the park reopen. The fire was still raging several kilometres away and the smell of smoke hung in the air.

We were the last helicopter out which meant many of the supplies went with us. Laundry and beer seemed to be the bulk of it. When the pilot lifted off he paused for a moment a few feet off the ground, then slid sideways, went backwards to the edge of the clearing, tipped the nose down as he took a run at the trees to get over them. I looked at the staff member beside me and she simpy said “we’re a little heavy”. The flight felt like we were on an old country road with no suspension. Nevertheless, we made it with all our bits and pieces.

The first order of business was to get up to our cabin and quickly settle in as the group wanted to get painting as soon as possible and Sam wanted to get fishing. We were in the Jonesy Hut which had a covered porch which meant my ritual of staying up by myself, listening to a good book and having a nite cap in the company of my mountain friends could happen no matter the weather.

We decided to head up to Gog Lake to paint for the afternoon. I painted up there last year but looked back in the other direction at the “Lump” as Alice Saltiel described it.

#1 The Towers (day 1)

The Towers 2

I trudged around for a good twenty minutes looking for something to paint as I usually have the habit of doing. While walking I thought that this may be the time that I try a full vista. I normally don’t like full vistas because I find it unusually challenging to get the entire scene onto such a small canvas. Took me three attempts. Patti said that’s normal. Overall it was a great afternoon painting in great company.

Sam went off and fished and caught two.

Naiset Falls (day 2 am)

We were up, fed, and coffeed by 9am an then down the shores of Magog lake to scout out a spot for our morning paint. I decided against “The Grand Vista” and remembered the falls which are on a separate path that branches off to the right from the main path the the lake. The problem is you’re looking down on them. So I had to find a route which led me to the bottom of the falls without climbing down the rocks. I ended up here (you can see my easel set up on the right if you look closely). This was worked on in the studio but after looking at the work done in the field, I think I prefer the direction I had out there. I think I over worked it.

Jonesy Hut (day 2 pm)

The third painting was done close to home. We had lunch and decided to paint close by the cook shelter. I thought a painting of our hut was in order. I just had to find a good vantage point and I found one that fit the bill about a hundred yards towards the rangers station. Within a half an hour of starting I could see a large cloud moving in and as is typical in this area, I expected a good shower so I started to rush getting values down and trying to get the hut accurate before having to pack up quickly and making a run for it.

Then something odd happened… ASH started falling from the sky. It looked like a light snow. It got in the paint and on the painting. I got covered in it. I walked over to Patti who was about 50ft from me and we marveled together at what we were witnessing. This one is untouched and you can still see the ash in the work. As a matter of fact, the wet paintings which had been set up on the front porch of the hut got covered as well.

As far as the success of the painting, I’m not sure. Still, any painting shows you a path to the next one. I did learn a few things which I’ll take away from it.

Sam caught another three I believe. Overall, more fish in two days than he caught in months on the Bow.

After…

Before dinner we went for happy hour at the lodge and I asked the girl who runs the desk if that was a new fire? “I don’t want to talk about it” she said. “Too many fires”. After dinner the staff came by and took a roll call call of those present in case they had to evacuate but “not to worry “.

We had a great last night and got up early as we were hiking out 29km to the Mount Helipad and it was going to take all day. We headed up and over Wonder Pass which was breathtaking which looked over Marvel Lake which is where we’re headed. It was so beautiful.

The descent into Marvel was very steep but at least we were going down. Then a nice hike along the NW side of the valley to the Bryant Creek Ranger Station. From there, down to the very southern end of the Spray Lakes and after that?… kilometres of the most boring road imaginable back to the parking lot at Shark. Our bags got flown out and we had to drive into Canmore to pick them up. When Sam and I arrived at the parking lot our muscles had seized so badly that when we got out of the car we looked like a couple of very old men.

We heard later that they closed the park an issued an evacuation order at 10am. I wish I had known they were going to so I could have told all the hikers heading up they should turn around.

Overall, another grteat trip. Next on the list was Lake O’Hara in September.

A Curious Coincidence…

 

 

Victoria Falls

I have finally begun to work on some paintings from my last trip to Mount Assiniboine and Lake O’Hara.

This is an underpainting of Victoria Falls from a photo that I took while up at the falls. It is my new way of working which involves a very gradual loose application of thinned paint which creates some really nice texture and as I lay on slighter thicker paint with each pass making sure to keep it loose only applying color as a general indication of where the color lies and what general value it has. It’s the scaffolding for whats to come and I’ve found that when it looks pretty good at this phase it has a good chance of succeeding as long I don’t get too tight.

When I was looking at the reference photo I could see hints of water trickling through the foreground rocks and I thought to myself that during runoff those rivulets were probably torrents adding a whole new dimension to the falls. We were up there at the end of September so the runoff was nonexistent.

So I went looking on the internet for images of Victoria Falls hoping that someone had stood and taken a photo in nearly the same spot so I could use it as reference. After typing in the query into Google it spit back a number of images of the falls.

I started to sift my way down through the results seeing the usual imagery and then one image in particular caught my eye. I stared at it, blinked, leaned in closer, blinked again,and then clicked it. It looked eerily similar to the painting I had on the easel. The composition was almost identical, the colors and values were really really close. I sat and thought that this was pretty cool that someone out there saw this in the same way I was seeing it. I looked for a name and possible a website that I could visit to see if the other stuff they had was echoing my own particular style. Well,a website was out of the question as the artists had long passed. It was a painting by one of my painting hero’s J.E.H MacDonald of the Group of Seven fame.

I smiled and thought to myself how amazing it is that nearly a hundred years ago MacDonald slogged up there with his kit and stood near the falls in nearly the identical spot and made a sketch that I would discover while working on my own interpretation. I was planning on taking mine a lot farther but after looking at what MacDonald made I’m wondering how far will be too far.

JEH MacDonald - Victoria Falls

A Painting Mount For My iPad Pro…

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Recently I broke down and picked up an iPad Pro 10.5″ with that nifty pencil. compared to the older versions we have in the house, this one performs unbelievably well. It’s snappy and there’s no putting it down and making a cup of tea while it loads a web page. I finally bought it because it runs a mobile version of Lightroom and also runs an amazing Photoshop style app called Affinity Photo. This means I can take it on location instead of my laptop (which died hence the iPad) and ingest the days shoot, make selections and perform some basic edits. Enough about the photography…

PAINTING

I also used my trusty laptop to display reference images while I was at the easel. It sat on an old tray clamped to a C-Stand. It wasn’t the most elegant solution but it worked for a time. So when I bought the iPad, I was trying to figure out a way to use it for the same purpose. It wouldn’t sit on the tray and I didn’t want to sit it on my painting table for obvious reasons.

I went looking for a mount that would secure the iPad to the easel solidly and in a position that would I could  see both the work and the tablet easily. I thought about music stores because I know musicians use tablets to display sheet music. Nothing was really suitable. I know photographers use mounts but again I couldn’t find what I was looking for. Then I remembered the iPhone mount for my motorcycle made by RAM. It was there that I found all sorts of ways to securely mount my iPad to my easel. The best part about it, was there are two places here in Calgary that carry them: GPS City, and GPS Central.

So far around $100 (I know, it’s a bit expensive) I have a very well built mount that I can easily attach the iPad for my painting sessions and remove it when I’m done to write this blog post.

Winston Churchill as Artist…

churchill_1365468cA long time friend of mine Mike Brown, tired of the onslaught of very depressing news decided that ART was a better way to fill the newsfeed on Facebook. Mike would assign anyone who liked his post an artist to research and post back to FB what we found. I was given Winston Churchill.

Most of us know Winston Churchill as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945. A cantankerous and brilliant man who’s career spanned over sixty years. Most of us probably don’t know that he was also an accomplished artists. It wasn’t until he was forty that he took up the brush and over the next 48 years produced over 500 works. This seems to be a theme as both Mike and I breathed energy back into a long dormant interest in creating art.

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Winter Sunshine,Chartwell

His painting was mostly personal as a way to unwind from the stresses of his busy life but on a couple of occasions he tested the waters of his abilities in a public forum. He entered an amateur competition with “Winter Sunshine,Chartwell” and to his delight,won first prize! Encouraged by his success he sent five pieces to be exhibited in Paris and four of them sold for £30 each. Interestingly,he submitted them under an assumed name – Charles Morin. And just to be clear, money was not the motivation for his art.

He used a pseudonym once again (Mr. Winter) when he delivered five paintings to The Royal Academy for consideration in 1947. Apparently,he didn’t want his notoriety to have any influence on those making the decision. Two of his paintings were accepted and were shown in the Summer Exhibition.

For the most part, Churchill painted mostly while at his home at Chartwell and during his travels around the world. Here are a few of his works. I even managed to find the spot where he painted in Pompeii with Sams help who recognized the spot from his visit there last year.

Churchill’s work now fetches several hundred thousand pounds at auction. This painting “The Goldfish Pond at Chartwell” set a record at 1.8 million Pounds. Maybe someday, after I’m dead and gone,my paintings will sell for that much. Ah, one can dream.

Thanks Mike for making me have a look at a man who I thought I knew something about and discovering a lot more than I had imagined.

The Sun…

The Long Winter

I’m feeling the cold. When I go outside I feel it gnawing at my bones and the sinew that hold those bones together. It’s not a pleasant feeling but one that comes with living in a part of that world that tilts annoyingly away from the sun for a good portion of the year. The one benefit of where we live is that that very sun sits in a brilliant blue sky free of cloud overtop a dull gray landscape. It penetrates the darkest room bouncing it’s way into every nook and every cranny and you can feel the heat, where it’s allowed to gather free of the cold north wind.

I am reminded of when we lived in Vancouver and winters were considerably different. It rained or more accurately, drizzled or even more accurately misted a good portion of the time. Oh yes, it was green and mild, but also came with its own gray dank dullness that blocked that beautiful sun. It’s as if the landscape was flipped over. The gray on top and the color below. An umbrella was almost pointless as the whole idea of an umbrella is that it provides protection from “falling” rain – a concept that is lost on mist. And cold? Oh yes, it was sometimes very cold. I don’t care what anyone says, damp cold is real. It slithers like a snake down through any opening and finds the warmest spots to curl up in.

In Vancouver, in the rain, I was glad to be inside. In Calgary in -25?  I’m glad to be inside as well.

The difference? – I don’t have all the lights on.

I think I’ll go paint.

Plein Air to Studio…

20-30 MINUTES OF FOCUSED PLAY ON A PAINTING THAT DIDN’T REALLY WORK

ohara-blog-210After getting back to Calgary and setting out the paintings I managed to produce on my recent trips to Mount Assiniboine and Lake O’Hara, I decided to rework some of them. I know this is a common practice in the Plein Air world but there are some purists who believe that once you pack up and get back in the car, then the painting is considered done. Let me state for the record that I am not a purist… If a painting needs more work (sucks) then it will get more work and may suck less.

These two painting were the first to go back on the easel. The interesting aspect of doing this is I had the choice to pull photos of each but I let the picture in my memory act as reference. I made value and color decisions based on what I thought was needed and where. I massaged pretty much every area adding a little in some areas and a little more in others. I tried to improve each area in isolation but as I progressed, these areas began to talk to their neighbours and a different harmony developed.

These were paintings which didn’t succeed in the original battle and needed more to carry them over the finish line. Whether I succeeded in making the paintings better or not doesn’t really matter; I think it was a great exercise in decision making. Something I can do to many small studies in my studio at the moment. Take a painting that didn’t really work and see if I can spend twenty minutes with it and make it better. What does it need? Play with color, brushwork, or push the hell out of the values. If it doesn’t really work, oh well, it didn’t really work in the first place.

Have fun and play with those dud paintings.

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Original Plein Air

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Additional Studio Work

 

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Original Plein Air

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Addition Studio Work

Plein Air to Lake O’Hara

“I got to the beautiful Lake O’Hara lying in a rainbow sleep, under the steeps of Mount Lefroy and the waterfalls of Oesa. And there I realized some of the blessedness of mortals.”
– J.E.H. MacDonald in A Glimpse of the West, 1924

Well again, I was lucky enough to have secured a spot in another trip organized by Patti Dyment. This time we were to paint at Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park. Steph drove me up early so we could be at the parking lot for the bus ride by 10am. When I arrived, there were many cars in the lot and several excited adventurers. But what excited me the most was when I saw the familiar faces of Alice Satiel-Marshall and her husband Bill, Sharon Van Essen, and Sharon Lynn Williams and her husband Dave. Alice gave me a big hug and with smiles on our faces we climbed aboard for the 20 minute bus ride up to the Lake.

Well if I compare the way we got to Assiniboine and the way we got to O’Hara – a helicopter versus a big yellow school bus respectively – the helicopter wins out. There’s leg room on the helicopter (I’m not eight anymore) and your kidneys don’t end up where your liver should be. Oh, and I think I lost a tooth. You get a grand view from the chopper and a view of nothing but trees from the bus. Not even a hint of what we were to expect.

ohara-blog-1ohara-blog-4We pulled up to the coffee shelter called Le Relais, gathered our stuff and decided to head to the lake which was just to the left of where we stopped. What the bus and bumpy ride up had hid, revealed itself within 50ft from where we stopped. The very place where John Singer Sergeant painted his masterpiece in 1916. It was beautiful. Mountains that rose up, reflected in a lake of clear emerald glass. Patti and Jan Chalupnicek were there painting as they had arrived two hours earlier. Their work was wonderful and inspiring and made me want to get going.

We took our gear up to the Elizabeth Parker Hut, found or sleeping spaces (mine didn’t work out – more on that later) donned our paint gear and decided to head up to the Opabin Plateau.

When I say we, I mean Patti, Sharon Lynn Williams, Sharon Van Essen, Jan Chalupnicek, Gwen Davis and myself. Dave, Bill and Meg Nicks head off for a different adventure. The one Hour hike and 250m elevation gain from the Lake O’Hara Lodge was well – steep. It didn’t help that I had my studio on my back. Jan decided to stop half way up and paint the creek that the trail follows up to the plateau.

ohara-blog-13We arrived at some small ponds which are beside Moor Lakes and the group decided to set up there. By the time I got going (late as usual) I could see a veil of either rain or snow in the distance. I very slowly, squeezed out my paints, starting with White and then onto Ultramarine. I paused, eyeing the veil suspiciously trying to determine if it was going to pay us a visit. By the time I got to Yellow Ochre it made a final rush moving swiftly up and over the ridge. Snow was sticking to the back of my neck and the temperature felt like it dropped by 15 degrees. I was reminded how unpredictable and potentially dangerous mountain weather is if your unprepared.

We made our way back down to the lake and back up to the the Elizabeth Parker Hut. On and off showers but no snow or wind. I still had the need to get something down and ventured out of the hut to scout out something worthy of setting up. I found a small grouping of rocks about 2 mins from the hut and set up there, took some reference pics and began to paint. I was rained out after 30 mins but managed to get this on the board.

Grant Waddell

 

Within tradition, we ate a great meal and talked and sang well into the evening. Many of the group had done this before and again, I felt very lucky to be with such wonderful people. And what is also a tradition for me, I waited till all was quite, poured myself a night cap and sat out under the mountain sky and thought of the day and what tomorrow would bring.

DAY 2

I spent a very uncomfortable night on a bench in the dining area after I was crowded out on my bunk. What I thought was a comfy cushion turned out to be carpet on wood. I woke up several times during the night and when I saw the first hints of twilight I knew my suffering was over! I was glad to see the very early risers getting ready for their day of hiking. I got up and dressed quickly, made a cup of coffee and was happy to see Alice sitting at the table. We chatted and talked of where to paint but were somewhat dismayed that the weather was still not cooperating. Low clouds clung to the mountains and intermittent rain hung dismally over our creative verve. We had a second cup and some a third.

The damp seemed to stall for a bit and Gwen and Alice and I headed down to the Lake (Lake O’Hara as “The Lake” will now be known) to see what we could find for inspiration. Gwen set up fairly quickly painting the cabins on the lake and I headed off looking for – you guessed it – the promised land. During my venture I ran into Bill who said “Alice is here somewhere” and then we could see her purple coat at the far end of a small lake on the outlet side of O’Hara. I headed in her direction thinking she had found something worthy. Sadly, she hadn’t and I met her as she was making her way back.

ohara-blog-21To make a long story short, we painted very close to where Gwen had set up which was, where Patti and Jan had set up the day before and where Sergeant had set up 100 years ago.

I spent around 4+ hours trying to paint this scene with intermittent rain. ohara-blog-22I had my umbrella but it was too dark and I had to keep pulling it up and away to see where my values were. (I need to get a translucent white as an alternate) Overall, it’s not bad but was very much like “The Queen” at Assiniboine. LOTS of stuff to decipher and get down. I wasn’t massing and simplifying like I should have been. Ultimately, I finished, without being finished. My values were off and my colors muted. It wasn’t bad, but wasn’t successful in my opinion for the amount of time I spent on it. I could blame the weather and the light… and you know what, I will!

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Another night of food, drink and song is always a welcome end to a day of art and exploration. I again sat up with a light rain and this time sat under the eve of the Wiwaxy Hut which is a smaller hut beside Elizabeth Parker and in the stillness of the night, I could hear Patti sing a lullaby (probably a show tune) to the group in her cabin. ohara-blog-20

It was magical and I rested my head against the outside of the cabin and thought to myself that it’s moments like these that are like simple strokes of paint. Bits of recorded memory. We start with a blank canvas and with each stroke, each memory, some good and some not, we create a masterpiece of who we are and who we have been. From the underpainting, the adjustment of values and edges with some hard and some soft, and maybe even wiping some, if not a good portion of it off.- we are never finished until the end.

DAY 3 – The Hike

We awoke to a dismal day of gray and wet and the shuffling and quite clatter of hikers eager to get the day underway. The painters sat and looked out the windows at the gray dismal day and drank coffee and tea. Sharon Lynn Williams and I looked at a book on the Paintings of O’Hara and were very happily surprised to see a piece by Alice in the book! Gwen Day mentioned to me later that we were amongst some amazing talent in the group and I would have to agree.

After some discussion, the idea of painting was out as the weather did not appear to be improving and I needed to get to Victoria falls to take some reference pics as I had seen them in paintings many times before. That was my goal for the day and I had no intentions of going much past that. Many of the painters were in and I, as well as Patti, Gwen Day, Sharon Lynn Williams, her husband Dave and Sharon Van Essen headed up with common intent. Dave and Patti decided to split off and hike a different route which would intersect the trail farther up. It apparently is a beautiful hike but bypassed the falls.

ohara-blog-25Well, once I reached the falls I was struck at how much smaller they were from what I had imagined – but I could see why so many artists had tried to capture this beautiful whisper of what lay just beyond. ohara-blog-27After some pics I had to move on as I could see a ridge or plateau just ahead. Where there is more road, more trail, or running water has always said there’s something more and you better not miss it. This has been something I have come to expect from my wandering spirit. What is over that hill? Or around that bend? It has always driven me farther… the “what if” of driving up a logging road or hiking up a mountain trail. What if I turned around right now and went back…

If I had turned back having reached my goal of getting to the falls I never would have seen what was just over the ridge that was calling me onward. SharonLW was behind me and as I came up over the edge a mix of awe and elation pulsed through me, Victoria Lake opened it arms and wrapped me up and held me for far too brief a moment, dropping me to my knees. It was so beautiful and I was so wonder struck, I instantly turned to Sharon with a beaming smile and gave her a huge hug which she gladly returned having seen this before and knowing the experience I was having. Victoria Lake without a doubt, is one of the most beautiful places I had seen in my life. A smallish lake surrounded by pine and Larch trees in their beautiful fall yellow outfits. Another set of falls lay enticingly at the far end of the lake whispering that there was more to come. “Keep going” they said. “Keep going”

(I think a cabin would be nice. A bit of a trek in but soooooo worth it.)

We waited for a bit thinking Dave and Patti were going to meet us there but after consulting a map we realized the trail they were on intersected farther up. We headed up that way and after a short while the two hi level adventurers met us at the intersection and we were off for the very short romp to the shores of what had been calling to me – the magnificent Lake Oesa.

I – at this point am not surprised at how much beauty resides in such a relatively small area – Lake Oesa is no acceptation. An amazing geography of high mountains and cliffs, scree, talus, and snow all displayed two-fold in the reflection of an emerald mirror. We wandered around, took some photos, and had a wee bite, and decided to head over the Yukness Ledges which terminate at the Opabin Plateau. Needless to say, the traverse over this face was incredible. High above the plateau we could see Alice and Bill and some of the others where we were two days earlier. When we arrived at the intersection we marched on to the the majesty of Opabin Lake. I think I’m running out of adjectives to describe the sheer natural beauty of this place. It has re-invigorated my love for high alpine hiking. Through the barrier of the trees to open meadows filled with wild flowers, this vast open beauty will remain unseen by most city dwellers sadly and I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to hike and rest in a place that plants the seeds for future exploration.

In the words of Robert Genn from his trip to the the O’Hara region…

“What a privilege to be with creative and observant companions past and present. To see and share an environment where sheer power and the delicate flower beg to be studied and honored. To be surprised and delighted at every turn of a path. To flirt with the gods of the larch forest and the granite mountains. To be in a place where human understanding is submissive to impression. What a high it is to be an artist. What a responsibility. How natural. How tragic it might have been to pass this one up. My complaint is that I almost did.”

And to think – I almost did.

 

Our hike out circled around some wonderful painting spots. Lots of reference was shot and there were moments where I wish I could have had all my painting gear and a moment to hunker down and dig in. We eventually ended up on the same trail we were on two days before but with much much better weather!

Again, the evening air filled with song and the scent of fine mountain cuisine. We even broke into poetry in which we agreed, next year, we all had to learn an epic poem. I started with Jabberwocky and Dave recited The Cremation of Sam McGee.  We had table #2 (another group we were getting to know) singing with us at one point and Alice yelled over “Hey Table #2 – if you have wine we’ll pay top dollar!!!” I can’t remember his name but one of the other hikers came over with a flask filled with Fireball. It was so bloody fun! This night I had my last night cap sitting in the darkness of the hut save the glow of the fire, on the bench I had slept on two nights earlier and listened to my book – The Island of the Lost – by Joan Druett.

Day 4

Next morning was a mixed bag of rain, sun, more rain, some blue sky and even more rain. The day was open but many of the party decided it was time. The weather had won and it was time to call it quits.

We thought it would be a good idea to take a trip down to the Lodge to see the artwork hanging on the walls which included one of my favourite artists Robert Genn. There where also photographs of J.E.H McDonald and Lawren Harris Painting in the area .

A few caught early busses out and a few of us stayed a little longer in an optimistic haze. Sharon set up on the dock and painted a view along the shoreline in her very characteristic very colourfully wonderful style. I was convinced (read hounded – ok maybe not hounded) to start something and decided on a 4×5” panel. I was only 20 minutes into it when time ran out and we packed up to get the bus. (I knew it!) 🙂

I had brought several of these small canvases down and after getting home, I thought it may be a good idea to start almost every painting with a very small gestural study. One that sets the values and colors in a format which does not allow for detail. I remember watching Jove Wang at the 2016 Plein Air Convention in Tucson and he did exactly this. Two separate pieces – A small colour  study and a black and white value study to set the tone for the larger painting to come. He referenced these often as he worked on the larger piece.

Again, like Assiniboine, this trip was filled with friendship, great food, song, poetry, and best of all we had an opportunity to paint in an area rich in artistic history. What a wonderful feeling knowing you have painted where legends have painted before. The common factor being, no matter who, we all felt the same awe and incredible inspiration of a landscape born from nature, and we have tried to capture it………….

What a great group – What a great time.

Till next year!

Cheers all!

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The Gang!

Plein Air Trip To Mount Assiniboine!

My Favourite Alpine Flower

My Favourite Alpine Flower

It was Sunday August 7th. The V-Strom, was loaded up with all the essentials for my painting trip into one of my favourite places in this world. A place I had been, by my recollection, 35 years earlier on a school trip with the Outdoor Class at STS. I kissed Steph goodbye and rolled out for the ride up to Canmore and then onto the Spray Lakes Road for the 36km gravel portion to the Mount Shark Helipad. It was about 12:15 by the time I arrived and it was very warm. I stripped off my gear, stowed it in the panniers and headed up the road to the waiting area. I rounded the corner and saw my group which included Patti Dyment and her daughter Megan, Laura, Anne, Sharon, Alice Satiel and her husband Bill. Oh, and yours truly. Four painters and four hikers. A wonderful group and a beautiful day to hop on a helicopter for the far too brief (8min) flight to Mount Assiniboine.


I was in awe as the chopper dropped in rapidly (I swear these young pilots have watched Apocalypse Now a few too many times) Mount Assiniboine and the surrounding vista called to a distant thread of memory from a time I can barely remember. I can’t describe the combination of feelings I felt that reverberated from my past memories of this place to the stunning reality that enveloped me now. It was nothing like I remembered it. The trees were bigger (naturally) and there were new cabins just below the helipad. These cabins were added maybe in the last 10 years and were made for guests who had my current net worth in their wallets. They were nothing compared to the rustic beauty of where we were all staying – the historic Naiset Cabins.

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Aster Cabin

They weren’t where I remembered them, but were 500m up the trail from the helipad. Our hut was one of several built by the Alpine Club of Canada in 1925. Ours was called the Aster and sleeps eight in two bunkbeds – and there not very big bunkbeds. Think advertised two man tent – then go look at it. Anyway, after getting settled in I headed down to Lake Magog with Patti Dyment and Sharon to try and get a quick painting in before dinner. The sky was a mix of blue, white and a bit of dark grey. To mountain people, that means anything is possible without warning. We all set up within a couple of hundred meters of each other and got to work – and within thirty minutes we were packing up quickly as the rain began to fall. I got something roughed in but not finished. Patti and Sharon faired about the same. It was back to the cabin and off to the lodge for happy hour where we met up with Bill and Alice for wine, beer and talk of art.

Dinner was fantastic and after, we all sang songs, laughed and enjoyed each others company. Then it was off to bed for the group but I sat up and listened to a story and had a nite cap sitting out on the porch of the cabin under the night sky, in the dark among the trees and the mountains. Simply beautiful.

DAY 2

The morning light sifted through one of the two small windows in the cabin as the slow stirrings of hikers and artists alike broke the stillness. In no time we were in the cook shelter – coffee in hand – discussing what we were going to do – where to paint that day or where to hike. Patti, Sharon and I decided to paint at Gog lake which was only a short 15 minute hike. It was again, beautiful in the shadow of what’s called “The Two Towers”. I could see Patti and Sharon and was pleased to see Alice setting up as well. I wandered around suffering from Moses Syndrome (looking for the promised land) and after about a half hour decided on spot much closer to the lake from where the girls were setting up. On a side note, I could hear a waterfall around a blind corner up at the end of the lake. I wanted to have a look but I thought I had wasted enough time and needed to start something. The falls were for another time.

Your first thought is to paint these iconic mountains and lake but I decided to paint the view 180 degrees to the west. A pretty nondescript mountain (not even sure of the name and I think Alice referred to it as “The Lump”) was in the background but it was beautifully lit and the trees on either side of where the lake began it’s downhill run to Magog were stunning. I loved the colors of the grasses and visual interaction of the reflections in the lake. Thank God I had my umbrella as it began to rain and I wasn’t ready to finish. My painting partners retreated to have a bite of lunch and a spot of tea. I finished up and headed back for the same.

The afternoon looked like it was setting up to be a repeat of the previous day with a full sky of mixed blessings and possible curses and we decided to go back down to where we began the previous day.assiniboine-processed-1-2 Since the light was pretty much the same ,I was able over two afternoons, to get this little 5×7 wrapped up and then it was off to the Lodge for a beer and more art talk.

 

The night again was filled with song, great food and for me, developing friendships. The night swept in and everyone headed for bed. I sat up and listened to my book and watched to the north where a developing thunderstorm lit up the sky, revealing the dark pines for a brief second. It was so peaceful. img_7357

 

Day 3

The next morning we awoke to clear skies and a very excited group who wanted to see what Assiniboine looks like at 6:15am and let me simply say it was stunning. I grabbed my camera and headed off down the path to take some reference shots as I didn’t want to miss the morning glow on such an iconic mountain – The Matterhorn of the Rockies.

 

After  the trek back up to the cabin, a cup of coffee and a bite to eat, Patti and I decided to head down to the flats in front of Magog to paint “The Queen” as Alice likes to call Assiniboine. I set up a couple of hundred meters below Patti and we got to work. I quickly discovered that there is a lot to take in in a scene like this. Not to mention trying to capture the fleeting early morning light. We both did the rough in with the intention of getting the light correct and then developing the details, ignoring the changes as the sun tracked across the sky.

Time passed, adjustments made, paint mixed and applied. Repeat.

Patti came down after she finished up and took a picture of me before she headed up for some lunch and a small break. We discussed heading up on a ridge between the Two Towers and Magog Lake for the afternoon but when I got back to the cabins, I couldn’t figure out where to go  or where Patti had gone.

assiniboine-processed-43I thought that I should investigate the falls I had heard at the far end of Gog lake the day before. The sound of rushing water excites me. It has been a source of a deep spiritual connection. I sometimes find that the lack of sound when in the mountains or sitting under the canopy of the forest almost *too quiet* The talk and banter of the water, and what it discusses with the rocks, stones and pebbles as it moves excitedly past on it’s way to some lake or ocean I find calming.

As I rounded the bluff, I could finally see what had invited me earlier. It was beautiful. Some falls are large and majestic, some small and reflective. These falls were lively – lacey. Going in several directions with a common intent. assiniboine-processed-44How the water fell through the rocks on the way down to Gog lake was well – inspiring.

I set up and gave myself 45 minutes to paint. I thought that the falls were going to be too challenging. More to take in than painting “The Queen”. I decided to rough in my underpainting with Alizarin (normally Ochre). I then wiped out the falls with a rag and thought the best way to go about this piece was to work from the inside out – paint the falls and it’s discussion with the bordering rocks and pebbles and work out towards the edges. If I had to stop, at least I didn’t waste time I thought, on what wasn’t important. This is where I ended up.

I learned more from this little painting I think than any other so far. It was quick and free. The brushstrokes placed without much thought but yet very deliberately. Confident because I didn’t place very much hope in it’s success. I knew I just need to get it down.

I was reminded of something an instructor at ACA said to me.
It has stuck with me since my time there – “Art in not precious”
I took this to mean that you need to keep an openness and freedom and innocence about what you make. Rather than restrict your work to whats saleable or what your friends or family will find acceptable. Let go. Art for art sake – work for your self.

I hope this little painting will continue to speak to me. It has been sitting on my windowsill since our trip and I’m drawn to it. It is closer to the way I want to paint than any other thus far.

Just as I was finishing up, Alice and Bill and Sharon wandered up and I was very happy to see them. Happy hour at the lodge was at hand, I had four plein air paintings in the bag and I knew another great night with new friends and song, warmth and a night under the Assiniboine sky was before me. I felt content and connected in so many ways.

It had been 35 years since I had been to Assiniboine with my crew from school. Some of the best people I have known. This trip, reminded me about how precious our relationships are – with family and friends, our passions and most of all, ourselves. It’s through who are, and what we value, that we can give the most.

Thanks Patti for everything. For creating an opportunity for me to become a part of an amazing community of such wonderful people – and inviting me back into an environment that I have found so inspirational then, now and in future trips.

Thoughts on Conventions

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So #Pace16 is now a memory. A really good one at that. I travelled to another planet really in that the Arizona landscape is up there with the strangest topography and accompanying  flora and fauna that one can imagine.

Pam Springs-285 copyThe only other place that I felt this same way was in Joshua Tree State Park where it looked like the Play-Doh playground of giants.

I was treated to an amazingly well planned convention experience that included an full line-up of some of the worlds best Plein Air Painters. As attendees, we got to watch them on the main stage demonstrating an incredible depth of artistic talent. From the calligraphic flourishes of Jove Wang to the straight forward and wonderfully humorous demo by Matt Smith. There were several others (I think the faculty was in the 70’s) and these were all a treat to watch and try to absorb through pen and paper instead of brush and paint. The paint outs were great in that I tried (along with 899 others) to translate the rushed scribblings in a notebook onto the canvas in some of the most beautiful and inspiring landscapes I had ever seen. Only one of the four painting I did, was anything close to successful. I met some great people and have to say the sheer volume of like minded people was energizing.

Would I do it again? – Most likely not.

As I sat at the dinner table with my friends Pamm and Paul on the night before I had to leave, we began discussing all the wonderful things that had happened and how exhausting it all was at the same time. I began to realize some of the things that I didn’t really like about the experience. As much as I was talking the talk about how fun it was, there was a part of me that kept raising it’s small finger going “um, um” and “what about?”

So, here are the thoughts on what the Party Pooper had to say.

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I had just spent the better part of $2200 to attend this event. The Main Stage demo’s were interesting but nothing I couldn’t get from a well produced video that most of major artists put out. The only thing I would miss was watching it in a large room with hundreds of other people.

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The next big benefit was going on the paint outs where a couple of dozen instructors went out as well and had red hats and green flags and a sign so you could identify them. The sad part was that, unless you stayed in the parking lot or less than a 3-5 minute walk from parking lot, you never saw one so they could never help. I didn’t realize just how many people were tailgate and trunk painters.

The Expo was great fun to walk around and have a look at the latest and greatest gear but I have some pretty wonderful art stores here in Calgary. I did pick up a Shade Buddy Umbrella which turned out to be invaluable in the sweltering heat.

Don’t get me wrong, the convention was a blast and an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life thanks to my wonderfully supportive wife Stephanie. But I found it to be much more about the bonds and friendships that were made and less about REALLY learning anything that was worth $2200. It was vacation and gathering for the converted. A place to chat and reflect on the days events and works which was wonderful.

But…

If I have say $2500 to spend on professional development, I would rather do this:

Purchase videos by my favourite artists and watch them at my leisure  $50-$100

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Min Ma

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Mike Svob

Sign up for workshops by some of my favourite artists which I could target to my style $500 – $1000. Depending on where I take them. The true beauty of the workshops is that I can direct my funds (laser like accuracy) to the exact learning style and most importantly, learning environment that benefits me most. One instructor, 3-5 days and a small class comparatively. This I believe is where those bonds are formed and valuable lessons learned.

Did I have fun at the convention? I sure did, but I have to be smart with our money.

And I think the smart money is in targeted learning.

 

 

#Pace Day 7 – Harley and I.

THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE ENTIRE TRIP – MEETING UP WITH HARLEY BROWN

IMG_6826-1It was a beautiful Wednesday morning in Tucson.The sights and sounds of the convention gave way to the quiet of man in an Airstream Trailer getting ready with the nervousness and anticipation of a teenager before his first date.

The truth is – I was about to go to meet up with a man who decades ago gave me words of encouragement regarding a still wet painting I had brought into a gallery in South Calgary – rubbed his finger through the back edge of a house, and showed me in simple words and a small very precise blending stroke of his finger that being an artist was what I wanted to do.

Harley Brown

Harley Brown

His name is Harley Brown, who is an icon in the western art world. An incredibly talented portrait artist and a member of the The Tucson Seven which included Duane Bryers, Donald Crowley, Tom Hill, Kenneth Riley, Bob Kuhn, and Howard Terpning – many of them hanging on the walls of Settlers Gallery, a Tucson legend unto itself.

I hadn’t seen Harley in oh, 38 years and and as I waited in the gallery, that encounter so long ago was about to be brought full circle. I was nervous, I’ll admit it as I really didn’t know what to expect and I only had one hour before I would have to leave to catch my flight.

 

I waited anxiously pacing around the gallery looking at the magnificent works and then, through an opening in the back of the gallery he appeared.

“Grant” He walked toward me, hand up.
“Harley” We shook smiling and after the normal niceties, and how are you’s, began to get reacquainted.

I won’t go into detail about the next hour but suffice it say we talked nothing but art. The great works on the walls of the gallery, his history, and my reintroduction into painting after a 28 year hiatus. I chose photography, my second passion as I didn’t feel I could make a living as a painter. 
Terpning BookHarleys BookDuring our conversation, Harley mentioned how he liked to write and that he had written four books and also how he was the author of a book about the art of Howard Terpnings. Before I left, he had given me his signed Confessions of a Starving Artist book which is Harleys “How I did it” as well as Terpnings book. It was very gracious and I didn’t know what to say. Thank you obviously among many other things.

FullSizeRender-3Sadly, the hour had passed far to quickly I had to go. After getting a photo with Harley it was time to say goodbye. It started with a handshake and a deep heartfelt thank you. Harley bowed his head and I could feel myself getting emotional. I told him how much this meeting meant to me and I could feel the meeting I had with him so long ago connecting with the present – a full circle. I started to really get emotional (not full out blubbering but tearing up) and Harley noticed and gave me a hug and simply said to me “Friends” I couldn’t speak and the moment seemed to hold for a very long time although it was most likely only a few seconds. I gathered myself and thanked him again wishing I could stay then headed out to the car to begin my journey back to Calgary.

I often find that there are events in our lives that don’t fully reveal how influential and important they are to us at the time they occur – somewhere in a place deep within ourselves these events resonate in ways that we may not fully realize until what has stayed hidden reveals its nature and insights just when we need them most.

It’s important that we encourage these encounters. Get out and meet people, take chances and understand that no matter who you are or where you are in life, that simple innocent exchange in a dry creak bed in Arizona or in a gallery in Calgary or a Walmart Parking lot may plant a seed that someday you’ll look back on and realize what a wonderfully simple but powerful gift was given to you.

My visit with Harley so long ago like I said earlier, had a deeply profound effect on who I became as a creative, and my latest visit with Harley has had a profound effect on who I hope to become as an artist.

Thank you so much Mr. Brown!

 

#Pace16 Day 6

The Last Day

I woke up with that strange sensation that one feels when out of town friends or relatives, who have stayed with you, pack up and head for home. The hugs and waves and “see you soon” as the car drives off down the road and you close the door to the quiet house still filled with the laughter that filled the room not twenty minutes earlier . Although it wasn’t truly over, it was lingering – sitting in the passenger seat beside me as I drove up to Picacho Peak State Park for the last paint out.

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It didn’t look anything like this when we were there.

The park is beautiful although I preferred Catalina State Park for its lush riparian areas. After paying for my park pass, I drove around exploring as much as I could to see what the park had to offer. It is essentially a small (very small) mountain range with sloping approaches covered in a variety of cacti and other scrub vegetation. I parked, put my pack on, and headed out to find the “perfect” spot to paint.

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Researcher Stumbles Across the Remains of Wandering Painter

After I think an hour of
wandering around in the desert heat I was reminded of “Moses Syndrome” – a term I first heard from Stefan Baumann, artist and instructor which refers to an artists who’s spends far to much time looking for the “Promised Land”. Someday I’ll wander out too far and I may not come back.

 

I finally decided on a spot I passed fifty minutes earlier… sigh.

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I joined Guy Fish who I met in the parking lot and passed not once, but two times in my quest before finally giving up needing company rather than visual perfection. I have to say the company turned out to be far better than the painting although it did start off promising. I had four instructors come by – Tim Oliver who reminds me of John Goodman said he liked the overall composition. I had only done a sketch at that oint. Next was Cindy Baron and I believe Kathryn Stats who liked my block in and gave me some great advice regarding small adjustments to composition.
Two hours pass and Bill Anton came by. We exchanged greetings and talked about the heat and he asked how I was doing although I could tell by the look on his face that he could plainly see the carnage inflicted on the poor little 9×12 panel. We joined hands, said a prayer and he said “thats a wipe off” before walking away taking a few snaps for reference and disappearing into the brush. I gave in, packed up and headed back to Tucson where dinner with friends was going to be a welcome end to an overall great day.

I learned a lot from that wipe off and hanging out with new friends in the desert heat. You won’t have success every time you go out but as long as you take something away from it you’ve ultimately achieved what you set out to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#Pace16 – Day 5

Me Painting SmallToday is the last day for convention scheduled events…I know, sad.  As has been the routine, Bootcamp started off the morning with Eric Rhoads presented a great marketing system to help artist who are not the most marketing savvy (wait…that would be most of us) generate more sales quickly and help propel their careers forward using materials that are tailored specifically for artists that help make connections to new collectors.

My next session was on the smaller Demo Stage where Dario Falzon was showing how he quickly moves from Block In to finished painting – and I’ll add effortlessly. Wonderful stuff.

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Dario Falzon

Next up was Curt Walters. A master impressionist landscape artist who has spent a great deal of his professional career painting The Grand Canyon. He has been heralded as “The Greatest Living Grand Canyon Artist” by  Art of the West Magazine in 1997. His work was nothing short of astonishing.

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Curt Walters

Bill Anton

Ball Anton

As if that weren’t enough, Bill Anton was on The Main Stage and Qiang Huang was on the demo stage. Not to mention, the Closing Ceremony’s was right after that and the Expo was shutting down. I was torn and flipped between all three. After Bill Anton was done his painting of a horse on the prairie he turned to the audience and said “this is the most important thing I need to do” at which point, he took out a cloth and wiped it all off saying “it’s just an exercise”. He got a standing ovation.

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Qiang Huang

The closing ceremonies were what was expected. A public thank you to everyone who made the convention happen. They also announced that next  years convention will be held in San Diego!

The Paint Out was supposed to be held in Old Tucson but I decided to back to Catalina State Park. It was close and very inspiring. I was joined again by Pamm and her husband Paul. As we were painting, Paul could hear a deep thrumming base noise coming from  somewhere in the woods next to him. It turned out to be a huge bees nest in the broken limb of a Mesquite tree. Cool. As it turned out I was painting a Mesquite tree about 50 ft from where they were standing. This one turned out pretty good.

Mesquite Tree

Grant Waddell

#Pace16 Day 4

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Me Painting SmallWell another early start but well worth it. Bootcamp started with a chat with Stuart Johnson who is the owner and founder of Settlers West Gallery here in Tucson. The first name he mentioned was Harley Brown who is a legend in pastel  portraiture!

Harley Brown

Harley Brown

He was the first professional artist to critique a painting I had done a very long time ago. Not only critique it but demonstrate what he meant by reflected light and or lost edges by using his finger to “blend” some of the still wet paint of some trees into the still wet paint of a small white house. It was great to hear his name again in such a creative environment.

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Jove Wang

The first demo on The Main Stage was Jove Wang who is an incredible artist from China. With the help of his wife’s english speaking skills, he painted a portrait live on stage. It was incredible. Jove paints with incredibly deliberate strokes and an attention to an inner artistic sense which pours out through his brush onto the canvas. I actually got slightly emotional while I was watching. It’s the way I would like to able to paint. From something deep inside that manifests itself in artistic expression.

After that was a great panel discussion on an art video project called “A Timeless Legacy – Women Artists of Glacier National Park” 

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Amery Bohling

Then Amery Bohling – A great young artist who is starting to really get a name for herself.

Then Lunch outside in the shade followed by Paul Kratter who did a demo on the demo stage called Importance of the sketch. Great work!

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Paul Kratter

Then it was paint out time! We headed off to the incredibly beautiful Catalina State Park and by we I mean The talented and tenacious Pamm Cuipa and her husband Paul. After a couple of hours and after the sun set forcing me to stop.

I ended up here. It’s missing a few things which I’ll add later.

 

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Grant Waddell

Overall a great day

 

 

 

#Pace16 – Day 3

Me Painting SmallSo, tonights post is going to be a short one. It was a busy and awesome day! Up at 5am to get ready for the 30 minute drive to the resort. Arrived by 6 am to get seats for Art Marketing Bootcamp.

This morning featured a marketing powerhouse – Lee Milteer.

“an intuitive business coach, best-selling author, blogger, award-winning professional speaker, and TV personality. She is the founder of the Millionaire Smarts® coaching program for entrepreneurs and is the author of 11 books and over a hundred audio and video programs. Lee is a regular guest on national TV and radio shows and has appeared as an expert guest on CBS, NBC, ABC FOX, CTV, QVC, PBS, and CNN.” – PACE website

It was a great listen with lots (too much) to take in – just going to buy her book!

First one up on the Main Stage was none other than Matt Smith. An amazing painter and an even better speaker!  Have a look at his work here.

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Matt Smith

Next up was a man I had the pleasure of meeting at the STRADA booth (after all, he was the brainchild behind it) His name? Bryan Mark Taylor. He gave a presentation on Masters Mind – which examines the effects of neuroscience and clinical psychology on developing habits that have a direct effect on the brain and it’s ability to adapt and change through practice and positive reinforcement.

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Bryan Mark Taylor

After that (as if all this wasn’t enough) was a dual painting demo with Dave Santillanes and James Willis. I have to say, the dual demo was an awesome way to showcase and present two Painting Powerhouses such as these. From an audience point of view we had to great painters onstage who took turns commenting on what they were doing as well as answering questions on the fly. Then there was the added benefit of the spontaneous banter between the two. It was great fun!

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Dave Santillanes

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James Willis

Thank the good lord it was such after that because I was flipping starving!

The afternoon started out with a glazing demo by an amazing young artist “who has become a leader in the revival of the techniques and philosophy of the Hudson River School.” I came back to my seat and and saw what I thought to be a finished painting – albeit very monotone . it a skilled hand it was transformed through glazing into an incredibly deep subtly colourful finished product. His name was Erik Koeppel.

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From 4-7 we all went out onto the resort grounds to paint. I struggled through this one as I found the subject unfamiliar and quickly changing. I tried to garb the initial values but was way off from the beginning. It turns out you can’t start a Saguaro Cactus the way you start a pine tree… I managed ok but wasn’t happy with the result. It’s ok though, one more bad painting out of my system – only 1,241 to go!

After a quick dinner of salad out of tupperware with my painting companion Pamm Cuipa, we headed to watch one of my favourite painters Stefan Baumann give a demo about nocturne painting. Stefan is a great speaker!

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Stefan Baumann

One of the best things I’m learning is that even the respected pro’s are human and mess up a lot of paintings – the stories are pretty funny but the important lesson is that growth requires vulnerability.  

Back to the trailer for a bite, shower and bed. Up again at 5 for tomorrows events – can’t wait!