Archive for September, 2009

At the lake

September 11, 2009

Shuswap - Beach playpen small

I’ve been away for a two week holiday to Shuswap Lake. Our cabin is a time-share one, on lake shore.

In other years, we’ve gone on hikes through second growth forest that haven’t been touched since the early settlers logged it off. Trees are about a hundred years old, and the moss forms a thick blanket over the debris and windfall that has fallen to the forest floor.

Another beautiful trail that we’ve hiked is up one side of a raging river and, after crossing a small wooden bridge,  back down the other. It’s about a four kilometer hike in all, with seven cascades or waterfalls along the way, each as beautiful as the next.

Although I had worked hard at the gym all year to be able to walk these trails again, about a month ago, I pulled a tendon in my knee which still hasn’t healed and so I couldn’t walk anywhere except on the flat. With foresight, I had my painting kit and I took it almost daily to the beach to draw the children playing, the adults lounging, the dogs leaping and cavorting in and out of the water.

I discovered that Art is a hard taskmistress. She doesn’t forgive if you haven’t kept up your skills. My first attempts at figure drawing were disastrous but they improved over the two weeks.

Also, I brought four kinds of paper with me to try.  I’m a firm believer in Arches and prefer the rough texture, coldpress.  I tried their smooth watercolour paper, hot press and found it interesting to work with, much more controllable than I thought it would be. I also had some Legion paper which I have used before, also a smoother paper than the Arches rough. I find it not quite as easy to use. The fourth paper was aa coil-bound Strathmore recycled drawing paper which I used mostly for drawing with a broad graphite stick. I’ll show some of those drawings in a separate blog.

Here are the results:

Shuswap girl w red bikini small

And this wasn’t even the worst one – but after a while, I found this drawing amusing and I like it now. It’s cartoon-like.  I’m going to have to go back to figure drawing this fall.

Shuswap yellow life jacket 2 small

Yellow life jackets small

So these reconciled me with my ability to draw; but they are really small, these are about 4 inches square. If only I could regain this liberty in larger format!

Shuswap red beach blanket small

Shuswap - Beach playpen small

The colourful structure there in the middle is a beach playpen for infants! There were lots of those folding metal tube chairs and I found the patterns of them fascinating. This one was fun for its bright cotton-candy colours.

Shuswap Bathers and Dog 5 x 10 small

but I like the fluidity of this painting much better; and I like the chairs much better. This is that smooth paper and the paints settle differently than the rough. It’s not better or worse, just different – and something I will have to get used to managing, if I continue on with hot press paper.

Shuswap - Pine trees 7x19 small

We took a picnic lunch to the Provincial park which was about a mile up the road. After lunch, my younger sister and I stayed to paint while my older sister and her husband went off exploring by car down the 30 kilometer road to Seymour Inlet.

I used the smooth paper again, and limited myself to a big hogs hair brush to keep myself from getting too fussy. It’s an interesting challenge. At the end, I couldn’t get the effect of the bare branches with my big brush, so I gave in and used a large Kolinsky martin brush with a fine tip to sketch those in. The jury is out on this painting. I haven’t decided whether or not I like it.

Shuswap - Smoke from the Sorrento fire 7x10 small

I used smooth Arches watercolour paper for this. The smoke from the two major forest fires across the lake created fog-like conditions where the trees get cut out in layers. On a clear day, this grouping of trees blends in with the rest of the forest and they are completely unnoticeable.

I tried it again on a different paper and here is the result:

Shuswap  Smoky lake 2009 10x14 small

This one is on Legion paper. It has a blotter quality and absorbs the paint a bit too quickly. But I like the results of both. Because of the smoke, the sky was almost a peachy grey. It was very curious – and hard to mix, but this colour is really accurate for what I saw.

Shuswap - Smoke from the Sorrento fire 10 x 14 small

This is a 10 x 14 inch painting of the smoke welling up from the fire across the lake like a humungous storm cloud.

Shuswap -Cloud at end of lake 10x14 small

And here is the end of the lake after all the smoke had cleared. I don’t think this one is successful. I don’t like how the paint settled but I rather like the sky.

Shuswap lake 2009 7x10 small

And this one is the same view of the end of the lake, on the smooth watercolour paper. Again, I’m not crazy about how the paint settles and I’m still working with  it.  (It’s the journey not the destination that is important, right?)

Shuswap Banana boat 7x10 small

And then the kids had these inflatable boats that looked like bananas!

Shuswap Bathers sketches 7x10 small

This is the last one. I did it before I did all the others, above. It’s a warm up on the smooth paper and these are all fitted into a 7 x 10 piece of paper. Sketches, really.

And that’s all there is!  … in the watercolour category, anyway.


Two Exhibitions

September 11, 2009

Krimmel,Kristin In One Ear

In One Ear, Watercolour 10 x 13

I’m not much at tooting my own horn, but I’m going to do it today.

On August 20th, the opening for the Painting on the Edge exhibition was held at the  Federation of Canadian Artists Gallery on Granville Island in Vancouver.

This painting of mine which I’ve posted above was selected for the show, so of course I turned up and invited all my friends.  It’s quite an eclectic exhibition running a gamut from high realism to minimalism, the latter which prompted two of my friends to look at me in a bewildered fashion as they said, each one of them, “I just don’t understand this. Someday, please explain why this is important enough to hang in a show.”

I asked them if they knew Piet Mondrian and both did. They both liked his work, they thought, but neither had really understood what he was doing nor the principles that would make  a line and a square placed strategically on a picture plane – to be considered worthwhile or valid as artistic imagery.

There were several pieces that appealed to my aesthetic, but I also found that the quality of pieces shown was quite inconsistent and if I had been choosing, there would be six of the fifty that I wouldn’t have shown at all.  If I can I get copyright permission, I will post some of them for your viewing pleasure. In the mean time, if you  want  to see the fifty images in the Painting on the Edge show, go to the Federation of Canadian Artists web site and click on Current Exhibition for details.

It’s worth a visit with lots of time to ponder. This is adventurous, thoughtful work showing. Different materials, different formats, inspired ideas, excellent craftsmanship.

Earlier in the day, I went to the Elliott Louis Gallery on 1st Avenue just east of Main Street by one block. The 5th Annual Emerging Art show is just up and the opening was this evening. I couldn’t be in two places, so I took a quick look in the afternoon before the crowds came.

Wendi Copeland is showing in both exhibits. At the Elliott Louis Gallery, there is a suite of paintings with her starting point being the palette of  one of Jack Bush’s paintings. First in her series is a very formal accounting of the colour palette. In subsequent paintings, she interprets the colours in different ways as if, for instance, looking at a rippled water reflection, or as if looking through a piece of wavy glass.

Something struck me about the Emerging Art show. In the advertising, the images are small thumbnails and some are and some are not interesting. For example, the images of Brian Kokoska have some of the same disturbing human relationships as the iconic Oscar Kokoshka of the early 20th Century. Seeing the paintings in real time, though, the impact is quite different from the thumbnail teaser which looked adolescent in small size. The originals are more powerful and rich. The size gives an immense visceral feel which is why one needs to actually see the art work. You can’t trust the thumbnails for any of the artists.

Whether or not I liked Kokoska’s work is immaterial. The important thing is that he is conveying a message and it comes across just as he intended. It’s in your face; and the handling of his imagery to do so is very well executed. The colours are vibrant and clean which is difficult with the colours he is working in. His drawing in paint is direct, freely handled.

That brings me to an aside that is worth thinking about here.

Artists paint for different reasons. Some pitch to the home buyer, painting to the home decor market  of landscapes, flowers, portraits and people. Some pitch to the commercial need of wall decor, such as restaurants and hotels. The work has to meet a decorator’s needs of harmony for the entire project. There will be abstracts or large landscapes, paintings of fruit or food.

But some don’t care whether you understand or not; they are painting with a message whether political, social or personal; or their works are esoteric,  delving into the abstractions of art itself.  Their works are not necessarily meant to sit over another person’s living room couch. The clientele for this kind of imagery might be a museum, an art gallery or a fine art collector.

I see Kokoska’s paintings fitting into this latter category.

I would say that for all of the artists in this show, my reaction viz the thumbnails was the same. The small version of the work looked ordinary; the real work was far more exciting, far more engaging. The corollary of this discovery is that, to see an exhibition, you must go there and engage directly.

Katherine Coe’ s images of heads with animal headdresses are exquisitely drawn combining traditional technique with surrealist imagery. Gail Alexander’s series Living on Airlie Street collages photographic imagery in an abstract fashion to create nostalgic and poetic works about family history.

Adam Dodd’s images are non-representational, reminiscent of mid-20th Century abstraction.  There is still much to be said and explored visually in this domain. I was quite engaged both by his  use of colour and the fluidity of his forms.

Kate Fisher and Michelle Jean Giguere also did not present well in the small thumbnails but in the real work it’s quite the opposite. Fisher is working in portraiture, with the three shown here all larger than life heads only. The paint handling and colour work are what make these works exceptional.

Giguere’s landscapes are surreal, with a far higher degree of realism to convey the imagery. Gavin Lynch,  on the other hand, purposely obscures the landforms as if seen by a camera at high speed or through spectacles made for someone else’s prescription.  The thumbnails conveyed nothing of this. And it makes for some interesting viewing. His painting technique conveys these sensations of distortion quite adroitly.

Sean Wiesberger, Amanda McMorran, Helma Sawatzky, Scott Billings, McMorran, and Caitlin Brittania Terry are also featured in this exhibition.