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?

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…

#PACE16 – Day 2…

Me Painting SmallSo today was the big day – the start of The Plein Air Convention and Expo! Starting at 1 pm with an art business symposium followed by  the Opening Ceremony. Th morning was free time and I decided to head out to Saguaro National Park. After driving 40min through the city which included several construction sites I finally arrived and found out that the Park charges $10 and from what I could tell was a landscape just filled with Saguaro Cactus. Nice but with the amount of time I had I wasn’t willing to part with the $10 for an hour Saguaro after Saguaro. Back to the trailer and lunch then off to the Symposium.

When I got to the resort I was pleased to see the Expo was open with all the vendors and their wares – an artists dream! There is some very cool stuff! I was disappointed that the venue for the Symposium was too small. I did;t get a seat and stood in the door to watch but only for a bit. I decided to go and pick up some of the supplies I needed which I couldn’t take on the plane – Gamsol and Galkyd from Gamblin. And, I picked up an umbrella called Shade Buddy for 1/2 price! Greta deal at $69US.

The opening ceremonies at 4 were amazing. They opened with a small western skit put on by Eric Rhoads and some of the artist speakers which included a duel – 10 paces and… draw! And they drew each other on large easels. Great fun! The Salon Award winners were announced and there were two lifetime achievement awards. One was to Ken Auster  awarded posthumously and the other was to Dean Mitchell.- Both incredible artists. 

SONY DSC

Ken Auster

Dean Mitchell

Dean Mitchell

The evening concluded with a wonderful cocktail reception where I met Lori Putman, Bryan Mark Taylor, Matt Smith and Bill Anton. More to come over the next few days from these folks!

Back to the trailer for a good night sleep. Up early tomorrow for Eric Rhoads Business Bootcamp!

 

 

 

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.

Snoopy, and the Red Baron…

See the picture below…

When I was eight years old, I sat at the 1971 Arborite kitchen table, gold flecks on white with a two inch chrome edging. The chair I sat on was red naugahyde  with chrome tubular legs. My knees bent, sitting on my feet for extra height. A small 12″ television sat on the back edge of the table against the wall and Spider Man was on. The antenna pulled out and tipped towards the dishwasher on wheels that you hooked up to the tap. All of this over a stylish green flat weave carpet.

My mom had asked me to write Nana and Uncle Kieth a nice note which we did monthly and this time, I decided to tell them a story about Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the Red Baron. I loved Charlie brown and Snoopy. How the Red Baron got in there, I’m not entirely sure. I gave it to my mom and headed out to play. This is the last I saw of it for 20 years.

I guess my uncle saw something in this picture that most didn’t. He took and carefully mounted, framed and hung it on the wall of his study soon after he got it. I didn’t see it till I visited Vancouver when I was 28. You could imagine my shock and surprise. He said to me he knew at that moment, that I was destined to have a career based on being creative. That he could sense the raw creativity that was within me. This was just after I graduated from ACAD in Calgary and moved to Vancouver to start my new life as a photographer.

This picture stayed on his wall for the next 12 years until he passed away from cancer and this framed picture from deep in my past, was one of the gifts I received and cherished as a birthplace for this long  and rewarding journey.

Thank you Uncle Kieth, for having faith in me and recognizing something long before anyone else could even imagine where I would be so many years later. I love and miss you.

In case you can’t read it…

Snoopy and the Red Baron

one day snoopy was sleeping wene he heard a noise. he said oh good grief weare under attacc. man the machine gun

man everything, then snoopy with out taking off his

pajamas. ran to his plane, and took off then

he was air born. then not noing that he had

got 60 belets in his airplane, and smoke coming

out of the back. he ceped on shooting and boom,

he crashed, right in his own backyard. he

woke and said Help Help. charlei came running out what

the matter thenjiusdkd

snoopy

am dead

cb

good greaf.

[Help Help] [am dead]

[what the matter] [good greif]

Snoopy and the Red Baron