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.

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.

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

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.

 

 

#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