November at Edwards Lake…

Proctor Barn LRSo my intention was to do some Plein Air painting when Steph and I went to a cabin at Edwards Lake last week- a cabin owned by her aunt and cousins 45 minutes southwest of Fernie BC. We went out for a week but when we arrived, found it unseasonably cold which didn’t let up for all but the last day. Too cold to go out painting in fact so I reached for two photographs that I took while on some excursions over the past year. I have a thing for old buildings, and barns fall into that category. One was shot in Proctor BC, the other just north of Eureka Montana. As with all the things I take pictures of, they simply have to have “good bones” as I call it. Bits and pieces that create the recipe for a good composition and give me the best opportunity to make a good painting if I decide that’s where the photograph wants to go. Both these locations had “good bones”. Both wanted to be paintings.

Eureka Barn

After watching some painting videos by two of my favourite artists – Richard Schmid and John Crump, I was inspired to try painting in a looser, more painterly style, roughing in quickly and developing the painting evenly in each area. Darks first, then the rest, trying to stay loose – easier said than done. Each painting took about 4 hours for the initial round and when I decided I needed to stop. I took the canvases off the board – taped canvas sheets on Masonite – and taped them to the wall where I would look at them under varying lighting conditions and decide on what could be done to improve them. Each painting was placed on the operating table for about half an hour of extra work adding some highlights, re-working bird holes and adjusting some local color and tones.

These two paintings worked well for me. I learned a lot about staying loose although I realized after, that the detail still managed to find its way in. The foregrounds stayed loose and have the feel that I’m striving for. Still not sure about my trees. They still feel unresolved to me but better. A bit of a struggle as John Crump would say.

 

Plein Air At Edwards Lake…

Me at Edwards LakeOut at the cabin at Edwards lake BC a few weeks ago and I wanted to get out and have an afternoon of painting. I wanted to try something a bit different in that, I didn’t want to pick a traditional composition that I would normally choose. After walking around the property for awhile and looking at all available angles, I chose this tree and the side of the garage and cabin itself. I liked the orange leaves and the slightly obscured buildings. Not what I’m used to and I was a bit intimidated by it but thought “what the hell”

The best part of my day was being accompanied by Kash. kash PaintingOne of the littlest members of our extended family. He came over to me sheepishly and asked if he could paint. Knowing oil paint and little ones, mom would be pretty upset if clothes came back stained with a Cad Red Deep!. But Aunty Steph saved the day and brought out Grandmas acrylics and he was able to sit up behind me and let the paint flow. kash and I

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any shots of his final work but I still would like to share mine. I think pretty successful overall. I think the right side is somewhat unresolved. I could add a tree or some interest on that side. The two buildings blend a bit too much. I know that they are obscured but I my thinking is I should have dropped the roof line of the garage slightly to differentiate to two a bit better. Colours I think are good and I like the overall tonality. The tree needs some work to refine it a bit. All in all, I was pleased with the effort.

 

Edwards LAke Painting UPDATE: We do have a shot of Kash’s work! Great stuff little buddy!

Kash Painting

Before I Even Started, I Could See My Direction Was Predetermined…

 

Paint by Numbers copy

Cup a JoeSitting in my studio the other day sipping a cup of coffee, I looked around at all the canvases propped up against the walls and leaning against the easel, and noticed something interesting -there all landscapes. Now to most people, that wouldn’t be an issue, and really its not. After all, I love representational landscape paintings. I seek them out, and the artists that paint them. I look at the way the light and mood has been captured. The way the paint has been applied to the canvas. And when it works – for me – its magical.

But still, I sat there wondering why I paint them. I also greatly admire abstract, and photorealist work in relation to almost any subject matter. When I was a painting major for a year, I didn’t produce a single landscape. This fact, I found odd.

I took another sip of my coffee and eyed the work suspiciously. Leaning back in my chair, I began examining the deep, or not so deep question of why?

Gus Kenderdine

A painting by Gus Kenderdine that hung in our house. It had a big influence on me in my early years.

 

Here’s what I came up with.

#1. I love the landscape on a personal level.
#2. I was raised on representational landscape painting.
#3. Based on #2, it’s expected by everyone in my family.
#4. It’s safer and more commercially viable than say, abstract expressionism – my grandmother would buy a Constable but not a Kandinsky.

I have been aware of this for awhile. I’ll catch myself saying something like “oooh, Id like to paint that parking meter” or “what if I painted the rear view mirror of my car and what I see behind me”. Then I quickly dismiss it based on my simple four step test:

#1. It’s not a landscape painting
#2. There were no parking meter paintings in my family home.
#3. I would be ridiculed at the family BBQ.
#4. It wouldn’t pass the grandmother test and eventually lead to financial ruin and cardboard living quarters.

So, I thought to myself, am I painting landscapes because I truly want to? Or am I painting them because I would like to be able to support myself financially as an artist, and, landscapes are a viable subject matter for that purpose? Would I be ok becoming known for a particular flavour of painting.

Style + Subject matter = Grant Waddell?

After some thought, I realized that there are many subject types I would like to paint or create digitally. Art college, I can attest, opened my eyes to a greatly expanded world of artistic possibility. Art I was trained to dislike at home – “any monkey can do that”, was understood through education. Like a scotch that is too peaty for your liking – it’s not bad scotch, actually it’s damn good, just not what you prefer. There’s a big difference. Not to mention I like that educational process.

My honest belief – if I really open it up – is that I paint landscapes because of my four step test. An ingrained way of thinking that is safe and comfortable and maybe thats ok. While writing this, it dawned on me that this post is an extension of my last blog post about art and how to approach it without making it precious. I now realize this belief, extends beyond the fear of making a technical mistake, but also the fear of choosing subject matter that may not be accepted – subject matter thats very safe and reasonably free of judgement. Thats one of the reasons I’ve learned why some art buyers don’t buy a piece they may really like – fear that someone may ridicule their choice. Do we create safe, so others can buy safe?

Fall Colours

In time, I may be able to get rid of reasons #2 through #4, and relish the fact that I simply choose #1- I love the landscape. But it’s going to require some exploration – and a lot of painting. It’s an interesting exercise – examining something as deep as our inspiration for creativity, and really beginning to understand what our motivations are in respect to our fears – what may or may not be real. What is fact and fiction, and what is true expression. Maybe I’ll never know, and maybe thats what will keep me going.