An image from the recent excursion to Waterton. I was riding up towards Pincher Creek looking for photo opportunities when the light on this hayfield caught my eye. The tan bales on the brightly lit green made for a perfect first image of the day.
Here is the first painting of the study I started the other day. The painting gave me some grief for a bit as I wrestled with the tones and, as usual, the foreground took some work… and work… But, I started to get the groove of what I was trying to achieve. A bit more integral color and a good sense of light.
Based on my post yesterday, I am going to start to approach my work differently and let things develop as they naturally want to. I did a few sketches of this image over coffee this morning which I took on a recent visit to Morraine Lake. One of the things I know I don’t do enough of is sketch, so I’m going to start doing that much more. I tend to work directly from the photograph with no exploration of the subject and I know this isn’t a great way to work – for me anyway. So here are three quick sketches. The first is clearly trying to draw things as they were. Not my favourite but also, fully expected. The second is trying to use basic lines and shapes to depict the subject matter and the third distils the image down even further with shallow curves and more simplified form. I think I like the second adea better. More sketching is in order I think. Then I’ll try a couple of small studies in oil and see where that goes.
Years ago, I attended the Alberta College of Art in Calgary and was a painting major for all of a year before shifting into photography. I had grown up as many of us do, with easy to understand representational art in the house. Very commercial. The type of art you would find at the local gallery. Generally, landscapes with horses (we do live in Alberta you know). Exceptional work by some exceptional artists.
So, pencils and paint brushes in hand, I entered college with the idea that this is what art was all about. I knew about modern art but thought that “my” type of art would be nurtured and supported. Not so much. I remember one instructor in particular – Dave Casey. He would get us going on drawing a still life, and would walk around the class looking over your shoulder at what you were up to. If he thought you were being too “precious”, he would pull out his trusty giant red marker and draw a line through your work and tell you to start over. Sigh… You would think I would not like this, Mr. Casey character very much, and possibly want to poke his eyes out with a Staedtler Mars Lumograph – but no. He taught me some very valuable lessons about letting go of what I believed to be “good art”, and start to open up to art that I didn’t really like specifically because of biases I had developed during my upbringing. As a matter of fact, the college seemed to be bent on removing that part of my brain. Kinda like a – LabARTomy.
Enter Art History and our dear professor Hannah White. Over the course of her classes, and with the help of my new open view of art, I was able to begin to understand the various art movements and yes, start to actually appreciate them. Even Impressionism, Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and more. This, despite the fact that apparently, my father had a trained monkey that could do almost any of the work produced by these so called artists. Dad was never able to produce this monkey unfortunately, as I would have taken him around the world and made a fortune.
So, as you may or may not know already, I switched majors and became a photographer. Looking back, sadly, much of this came from the pressure to make a living and I believed I could never do that through painting.
So, how does the Group of Seven enter into this? I held onto the stubborn idea of what good landscapes looked like. Upon refection, I probably still do to some degree. My first paintings in twenty eight years would have been well received by my dad. But recently I picked up a copy of The Group of Seven and Tom Thompson by David P Silcox and was mesmerized by the work again. I was then treated to seeing some of this work at the Glenbow Museums “Masterworks from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery” and I began to realize that this was something that I wanted to explore. The internal arguments were (and still are) highly annoying. – no no Grant, you have to make the tree look like this, here, let me show you, there ya go – But what if I make the tree look like this? – Well, that would be silly, trees don’t look like that – But I’m going for the way the tree and the rest of the landscape make me feel and trying to simplify and convey that to the viewer – feel schmeel… and on and on it would go.
So, where to from here? I’ve decided that I’m going to let go of what I think I should be doing, and just letting what happens happen. Paint and sketch with simplification in mind. Reduce the noise and volume of the landscape to it’s forms. Hopefully, that trained monkey won’t show up and start painting next to me.
As promised, I am posting any and all paintings even if I don’t think there successful as I learn from every one. This one took far too long and went through many iterations. I even started a time lapse of the process but it would have been a twenty minute movie covering several hours of me reworking the whole thing.
I was going to give up but decided that that was a bad idea and wouldn’t teach me anything so every time there was something wrong, such as the wrong color temperature, I would go in and fix it. I know that paintings sometimes simply are destined not to work out the way you want them too and I knew after awhile that this was going to be one of them. The foreground was giving me problems as well as the feel of the barn which started out way to flat and lifeless. Simply adding layers of texture to each are brought in some needed energy.
Anyway, I’ve called it done. Onto the next.