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?

#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 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.

Dario.jpg

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.

walters_c01p

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.

Quing

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

The Worlds Largest Gathering of Plein Air Painters

Me Painting SmallSo… what is PACE? It’s the largest gathering of Plein Air painters in the world and it’s happening in Tucson this year from April 15-19. I am lucky enough to be going because I’m also lucky enough to be married to an amazingly supportive woman who gave this experience to me as a gift for my birthday last year. She got on the monthly payment plan which makes it easier.

So I’m going to attempt to be a Social Media Powerhouse and Tweet, Instagram and Facebook my way through this amazing event. Have a look below at some of the details.

Where I’m Staying…

All I can say is amazing – from the photo’s anyway! Slate patio with a Chiminea (I always thought it was Chimerea) and a great elevated patio to have a cold beer at the end of the day. More to come after I get acquainted.

Unique Retreat

Airstream

It’s Happening Here…

Looks like great place to hang out by the pool. If your’re staying there – I think my place is WAY better!

El Conquistador Golf and Tennis Resort

HH_skypool_22_1270x560_FitToBoxSmallDimension_Center

 

And It’s Near The Santa Catalina Natural Area…

The painting possibilities are endless!

Santa Catalina Natural Area

Santa Catalina

 

 

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.

Painting Retreat…

“Thats a thickener Grant, not a thinner” – Doug Swinton.

These were the words I needed to hear obviously, and after tackling my first painting from a photo Doug provided, it became pretty apparent that this was where I was messing up. I realized, that when I was painting before the long 28 year drought, I only ever used Turpentine, which is a thinner. When I decided to get back into painting last year, I bought all new supplies and was told to use Walnut Oil and other mediums like that to get the consistency the way I wanted it. So when I was trying to thin the paint, I was actually thickening it and well, making a goopy mess that didn’t behave the way I remembered at all. The painting that I blogged about back in November never made it past the initial first color pass. With a large “X” through it, it ended up in the garbage.

So Doug gave me a small 3″sq pic to paint and I had to complete it in 20min. Here’s what I came up with…

20 Min Study

I felt really good about it and Doug took and placed it in a frame and put it on the wall which is one of the ways he likes to show his students work to the others. Success!

Ok, then onto the next which was from one of my pics up in Sunshine Meadows. This one I did in about an hour.

Sunshine Meadows

Then this one inspired by another photo but I decided I wanted to add the dark drama to it.

Morning Light

And finally this one which was of the same creek but looking in a different direction. And done with a completely different color palette.

Elbow Lake CreekThe first three done on the first day and the last one done on the second.

Overall, I’m shocked at how fast it seemed to come back and how photography and Photoshop has had such an affect on the way I see and compose and problem solve.

I just need to start to gain a better understanding of techniques and particular behaviours of oils. A weekend with some great people, a great instructor and some much needed personal success.