A Curious Coincidence…

 

 

Victoria Falls

I have finally begun to work on some paintings from my last trip to Mount Assiniboine and Lake O’Hara.

This is an underpainting of Victoria Falls from a photo that I took while up at the falls. It is my new way of working which involves a very gradual loose application of thinned paint which creates some really nice texture and as I lay on slighter thicker paint with each pass making sure to keep it loose only applying color as a general indication of where the color lies and what general value it has. It’s the scaffolding for whats to come and I’ve found that when it looks pretty good at this phase it has a good chance of succeeding as long I don’t get too tight.

When I was looking at the reference photo I could see hints of water trickling through the foreground rocks and I thought to myself that during runoff those rivulets were probably torrents adding a whole new dimension to the falls. We were up there at the end of September so the runoff was nonexistent.

So I went looking on the internet for images of Victoria Falls hoping that someone had stood and taken a photo in nearly the same spot so I could use it as reference. After typing in the query into Google it spit back a number of images of the falls.

I started to sift my way down through the results seeing the usual imagery and then one image in particular caught my eye. I stared at it, blinked, leaned in closer, blinked again,and then clicked it. It looked eerily similar to the painting I had on the easel. The composition was almost identical, the colors and values were really really close. I sat and thought that this was pretty cool that someone out there saw this in the same way I was seeing it. I looked for a name and possible a website that I could visit to see if the other stuff they had was echoing my own particular style. Well,a website was out of the question as the artists had long passed. It was a painting by one of my painting hero’s J.E.H MacDonald of the Group of Seven fame.

I smiled and thought to myself how amazing it is that nearly a hundred years ago MacDonald slogged up there with his kit and stood near the falls in nearly the identical spot and made a sketch that I would discover while working on my own interpretation. I was planning on taking mine a lot farther but after looking at what MacDonald made I’m wondering how far will be too far.

JEH MacDonald - Victoria Falls

He Ran His Fingers Through My Painting And Taught Me A Valuable Lesson…

Oil on Canvas - Kootenay BayI thought it was one of the best paintings that I had done. A small scene of a white cabin on the shores of Kootenay lake. I had been hanging around a gallery in Calgary, looking at all the great art for months and screwed up the courage to go and get a critique from one of the most respected Canadian artists – Harley Brown. Look him up – seriously. I gingerly walked in holding my precious work and meeting my gaze asked “what’s that you have there”? “A painting I just did” I replied. He motioned for me to place it on the counter and I leaned it against the cash register, an uncontrolled smile creeping into the corners of my mouth. “Wow he said, “very nice. He proceeded to give me some suggestions about how to improve my composition and other arty suggestions. I was good at “wow” but still listened.

Then, it happened.

“Is it still wet? He asked.
“Yes

With that, he took his finger and started to blend the area of trees behind the house smushing the green paint with the white side of the house! I didn’t know what to say but he did “that’s better don’t you think”? I stood there in dumb silence and a desire to grab a pen and draw a stick man on one of his pastel portraits briefly made an appearance. But I didn’t. I politely agreed and after a few more minutes left the gallery to digest what had just happened. I had just seen a very talented artist view and adjust another’s art work with his finger. I was expecting a – “go home and do this” kinda approach. Where I could take out my brushes and with great hesitation try something I was unsure of. What if he had wrecked it was all I could think.

This was the first lesson in a long series of lessons that started in Heritage Gallery and continued through art college…

The simple answer was… art is not precious.

That was the message that the instructors at ACAD taught all of us. The brush strokes I put on that painting were always meant to be played with if required with no fear. If the painting didn’t work, that was ok. But I have a certain amount of angst when working at the easel. Especially when the painting IS working. Ever make a card castle? When your only a few cards in, it doesn’t matter if it crashes. But when it’s three feet off the floor your moves become far more tentative and with the potential of catastrophe. I always wonder if these thoughts hold me back.

Red WorkOne of the most interesting paintings I ever did was an abstract for art school where I took several tubes of Gouche that I never thought I would use and squeezed them out onto some paper that I had masked the edges. I took out a painting knife and started running the knife through the paint creating texture and movement and… I just simply let my fearless painter out. Emotion took over, and I “felt” the work rather than direct it. My arm and hand worked fluidly letting a seemingly primal force work from within. Almost (almost) like I was possessed. On a side note, it felt similar to what I believed from film and description to what Jackson Pollack painted like. I pulled the tape off the edges and was stunned at how it not only it looked but how it felt to create without fear. After all I had nothing to lose – it was paint I was going to throw away anyway – on paper no less.

As a commercial artist, I have begun to understand why I was drawn to Photoshop. It’s safe. I can muck around all I want and not ruin anything. Adjust and tinker all day. Painting is different – seemingly. But maybe I need to adapt to the digital ideal and listen to my mentors.

Every piece of art is a journey and not an end unto itself.

What is precious, is the process. Crashes and all. It’s only paint, film, glass and fabric. To develop, you have to be comfortable with the idea that each piece you do, will either be a lesson, or a piece you want to sell or hang on a wall. In a way – I’m starting to prefer the lesson.

Painting…

 

 

Grant Waddell

 

Hey there, here’s another painting that I did in Thursday’s workshop. It was a fairly quick study that took about 45 minutes. I was exploring warm and cool values of different green mixtures, and trying to lay them down naturally, using the grey /green mixture for the trees in the background and the warmer tones for the trees in the foreground. I wanted to try pushing things a little bit more than normal and I quite like how this turned out. The Green in the foreground I thought was a little bit bright, but after letting it sit for a while I quite liked it.

I’m starting to do smaller faster studies where I get my color pinned down as well as my values before adding detail. Primarily, I want to try working on getting the correct color temperature between foreground and background elements. We’ll see how the next few work out.