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…

The Green House…

 

The Green House

While driving south west of Calgary I came across this wonderful little scene and snapped a quick pic before moving on. I looked at the image several times and was a little intimidated by the seeming complexity. Something I recently wrote about and painted during an afternoon of plein air painting (Trembling Aspens) made me realize I just needed to make it my own. So I did…

The Green House Reference

 

When to Stop…

Trembling Aspens...

Trembling Aspens – 9×12 – Oil on Canvas Board

As part of Alberta Cultural Days, the Leighton Centre held two days of activities including an invitation to plein air painters to come and enjoy the beautiful scenery that makes the Leighton such a treasure. A.C and Barbara Leighton’s house sits on a hill west of highway 22 on Range Road 23. The vista looking west is breathtaking and I have witnessed several people who, after parking and walking around the north side of the house are left speechless, motioning to their significant other to come quick as if what they are seeing isn’t real and will vanish from sight before the other has a chance to see it.

Normally, when I have arrived and have seen what others are painting, the view is paramount. How can you resist sitting on the hill and not be seduced into staying right where you are and painting the colourful foothills and mountains. After all they’re right there in front of you.

But, I try to make things as difficult as I can. I walk around looking for something more intimate with colors and texture and light. Oddly, I realize that I shy away from the “Grand Vista” because it is so complex. Too big, too broad and open. I can’t have a conversation with it. Yet I am drawn to the complex colors and textures of a stand of trees nestled in a bed of prairie grass.

___

This painting was done in two hours and is probably the most abstract subject matter I have painted to date. Simple color and value, yet unbelievably complex. Squinting didn’t quite do it. I put my reading glasses on and used them to see my canvas up close, and happily blur the natural subject matter. Simplify and mass as the rule states.

Stephanie Doll, the curator of the Leighton thinks this is one of the best piece she’s seen so far. I instantly bite my lip and become doubtful as usual – the rules of painting flooding into my brain. It seems complex and yet crude at the same time. I understand it’s abstract but I’m not sure I hit the mark. It’s a sketch but I instantly want to make changes. The main tree trunks are not defined enough. the sense of depth in the foliage isn’t where I think it should be. Do I stop or keep going? I find it interesting that I am becoming much more aware of what I feel the problems are in a painting, whereas before, I would stare at it and not be able to put into words what was needing attention on the canvas.

What I begin to understand is, a work of art, any work, whether it’s painting, sculpture, or dynamic video, will find an equilibrium. A place where the artist and the subject meet. if your shy of the mark, you are too tentative. If you overshoot the mark, you didn’t stop when you should have. It’s a feeling. It comes with discipline, challenges and years of practice. A sensibility as many have called it. I guess as every artist through the ages has discovered, each shot at the target is a crap shoot. One shot is right on, while the next three are way off. Practice brings the cluster closer to the center and a silent understanding that every attempt after will never be perfect. There will always be something that can get in the way of of your success on a given day and something equally as powerful which will move you forward to a better understanding.

Day 11/30…

Day 11/30

At the very end of HWY 66 past Bragg Creek is a great little spot in the Shadow of Forgetmenot Mt. beside Little Elbow Campground. I was up there last year to get some reference and came across this happy little scene. Hard tom paint as there is lots of stuff going on. Keeping in mind that these are designed to be sketches.

Grant Waddell Oil on Canvas

The Stand
8.5×11
Oil on Canvas

Day 8/30

Up Spread Eagle Road

Up Spread Eagle Road

This was from a picture I took while I was down in Waterton. I rode out one morning to see what I could find and came across Spread Eagle Road just a few miles from the park gates towards Pincher Creek. Looked like decent gravel road and the Vstrom is born to ride on this stuff so up I went. After a long windy tour past some gas wells and random cattle, I ended up at the highest point on the journey with this convenient pull out. You can just see the trees over the hill. It was a beautiful spot to get some pics and have a bite and a break. The results are below.

 

 

Grant Waddell Oil on Canvas

After the Ride Up
8.5×11
Oil on Canvas

 

 

Day 6/30

I was just south of the city looking for a location for a commercial project when I came across this little gem. It has sat on the hard drive for awhile now but I decided that it was time to get it up on the laptop and get to work. There have been a few moments when I’ve been told that I get too much in my head when I paint, and I need to just “paint”. Let it out with a wistful freedom and an attitude that it will just happen and I don’t need to force it. Make decisions on the fly as in – the sky is too light or too dark, the road is too hard edged and the centre of interests needs more life. This happened with this painting and I can see the results as the image came into focus without working it to death. I could have gone on but I needed to stop. There could have been some refinement, but hey, done is done.

Grant Waddell Oil on Canvas

Red House
8.5×11
Oil on Canvas