Archive for the ‘watercolors’ Category

Small Wonder!

December 13, 2012

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Low Tide, Bob Wakefield, 11×14. oil on canvas

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Prada, Bob Wakefield, Oil on Canvas, 14×18 inches

Normally, I wouldn’t post a painting complete with frame, but these two paintings just beg for frame recognition. The paintings by themselves would just not be the same.

Bob Wakefield is one of about  20 artists in the Fort Gallery artists collective in Fort Langley, B.C. The show Small Wonder! is the pre-Christmas, salons-style exhibit that allows the artists to bring out their non-series paintings, their small works, trials, sketches, etc. They are beautiful and they are affordable.

Wakefield was originally a student of Susan Falk, who is also with the gallery, and they work in thick impasto and expressionist style.  Falk’s is showing some farm-related imagery – a painting of a red barn, a large drawing of a sunflower, and a painting of her beautiful little iris-rimmed pond that is just big enough for a small row boat and a gaggle of geese. Pond Study is loose and dramatic with autumn colours contrasting with an ultramarine blue.

051 (Small)

Pond Study, Susan Falk. 24×12, oil on canvas

033 (Small)  034 (Small)

Two paintings from the series “From the bus: Coquihalla“, Veronica Plewman, each 6×8 inches, acrylic on board.

Plewman is showing 6 paintings from the series, “From the Bus: Coquihalla”.  The paintings describe the area near Merritt and Kamloops in British Columbia where the highway cuts through the mountain pass on Highway 5.  Plewman has captured the wonderful quality of colour that sings through a snowy landscape where, to the unschooled eye, one might be excused to think that there was just white and dark. She paints the blues, rusts, ceruleans and yellow greens that sparkle through when a bit of winter sunshine illuminates the hills. In these small paintings, she manages to describe the mightiness of the mountains and the detail of soft fog captured between the hills or a stand of bare alder with their raw umber branches. These are simply jewels of craftsmanship and vision.

039 (Small)

Search, Bloom, Shine, and Drift,  four prints by Edith Krause, , approximately 9×12 or 10×10 inches.

Several of Edith Krause’s small prints from “The Butterfly Effect” series are available in the show. I wrote about them recently so if you would like to see samples of those, go looking back a post or two.  Search, Bloom Shine and Drift are new works to the gallery and have quite a different feel to them. Krause creates prints with great attention not only to the inherent ecological message but also to the texture and surface qualities of her work. She pays great attention to finishing detail. These works are simply  perfect in craftsmanship.

050 (Small)

“Inukshuk” Pat Barker, Acrylic and Mirror on board. Approximately 8×8 inches.

With Inukshuk, Pat Barker gives us a preview of her upcoming show. She experiments with materials and includes bits of mirror in her design, enhancing the feeling of ice and snow.

040 (Small)

Carolina Poplars, France, Kristin Krimmel, gouache,  6×8 inches approx,

There are a number of works by artist Kristin Krimmel. This early gouache of hers describes the lines of trees along the roadside in France in the Department of the Marne.  Another landscape she offers is a watercolour of a farmhouse near Montpellier. It’s inspiration in style is an adaptation of the pointillists method or working. By overlapping small strokes of pure colour she blends and nuances the image to represent the special heat and light qualities of the Languedoc region on the Mediterranean.

042 (Small)

The Mas, Kristin Krimmel, watercolour on Arches paper

The surrealist of the group, Olga Khodyreva has contributed this fluid image:

062 (Small)

Drama, Olga Khodyreva, Gouache and ink on Paper. 12×12 inches.

It’s reminiscent of Joan Miro, Alexander Calder and Picasso with it’s tumbling figures.

059 (Small)

Winter wandering, Jennifer Chew, 8×10,  Velum and charcoal on wood panel.

Winter wandering describes fine branches emerging from snow. There is a delicate quality of calligraphy in this finely composed drawing.

FH Dempster Highway #1 (Small)

Salmon Glacier, Fiona Howath, 11 x 14, Silver Gelatin photograph

FH Fallen Giant (Small)

Fallen Giant, Fiona Howath,  Silver gelatin photograph, 11 x 14

Fiona Howath is an upcoming photographer whose work, in this exhibition, focuses on the natural landscape. She has crisp focus and  captures exceptional lighting. Detail is as important in the foreground as it is in the back. I particularly like the feathery quality of the ferns in Fallen Giant and in Salmon Glacier, I find the light/dark composition is excellent with the cloud, white above the mountain, casting dark on its slopes and brilliant sunshine delineating the character of the geological formation.

There are lots of paintings from each of the artists. As one is sold, it goes away with the purchaser and another gets put up.
I encourage you to go see the show and maybe even treat yourself to a painting. They are reasonably priced and there is lots of variety. Also there are several smaller items – greeting cards by four or five of the artists, fused glass tree ornaments (Judy Jones),  chap books and other small gift items.

Also featured in this show: Richard Bond, Lucy Adams, Doris Auxier, Fiona Howarth, Dorthe Eisenhardt, Judy Jones.

The location is 9048 Glover Road, Fort Langley, B.C. The gallery is open noon to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, and the show closes Sunday December 23rd.

Don’t forget to check out the web-site too:

www.fortgallery.ca 

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Framing

November 21, 2011

I sometimes rescue paintings from secondhand shops or thrifts – originals that people have junked, not knowing what they have. Many are anonymous. I can’t figure out the signature (which is a good reason in favour of clearly printing one’s name when signing an original work of art).  It’s amazing what you can find. It’s also amazing what you cannot find – like any information on the author of the work. If anyone can help me out on that front, please do so.

Sometimes they come with framing and sometimes not.

I found a subtle watercolour portrait marked Don Quixote, very sensitively done, about six months ago is a beat-up black frame with a hand cut mat around it. The image is done in loose watercolour washes with blues for the shadows and warm tones of peach, rose madder and yellows in the warm tones. The eyes are beautifully drawn and the mouth and nose sensitively described.

Signature not clear: Kjariscal or K. Jariscal? Don Quixote, 2000. watercolor

“Never fear!” I thought, “I’ll just re-mat and re-frame it.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take it out of it’s frame. Oy vey!

It’s backing was a dusty, dirty pulp board – the cheapest kind of cardboard with no refinement whatsoever and prone to picking up moisture. It was full of acid. The mat wasn’t acid free either. Where it had touched the painting, the watercolour paper was going brown. Yuck.

It was taped in with brown paper tape – kraft tape, it’s sometimes called. The backing was nailed in with rusty nails. I don’t suppose they were rusty when they were first tapped in there.

This is just a reminder – a cautionary tale. It just costs a small amount more to buy acid free matting and backing; or to use barrier paper (an acid free paper that separates the work of art from a cardboard backing).

An acid free framing will last a lifetime or more without losing its crisp whiteness; the non-acid free will be brown in two years and spoil the appearance of your gem, not only dulling the framing, but eventually attacking the work of art itself.

My new acquisition is now looking crisp and proud in its new frame.

My favorite custom framing place is Final Touch Frames in Vancouver on the corner of  4th and Quebec in a blue warehouse space. They are reasonably priced; and if you have works on paper that need mats in the smaller sizes, there are a lot of pre-cut mats that might suit your work.

John Koerner’s retrospective

June 28, 2011

Orchard 2, John Koerner, 8×10 inches, watercolour on  illustration board, 1963

There’s a tangible buzz mid afternoon in the Elliott Louis Gallery on Saturday. June 25th.   Celebration time is six o’clock, but the preparations are no accident. Everything is well planned to ensure the guests are greeted warmly and that they enjoy themselves during the two hours that follow. Those who cannot be there for six are arriving early, circling amongst the fifty -plus paintings of John Koerner, one of British Columbia’s most respected artists, and likely the oldest, too. He’s nighty- eight and not missing a beat.

Many of the paintings come from private collections, and they span a sixty year career of this remarkable artist.

The Lighthouse: Opus 119, John Koerner, acrylic on canvas, 42 x 52 inches, 1995

I fell in love with his paintings many, many years ago. Particularly, I loved his use of blues and turquoise in his landscapes.  I contemplated getting one of his oils, years back, but it didn’t happen; and then ten years later, was able to purchase a small watercolor, which I cherish still. It’s called Orchard 2 and is about 8 inches by 10.  I promised myself that, one day, I could purchase an oil and remembered the one I’d seen at the Diane Farris gallery on that early occasion. Then, miraculously, a still life in oranges and peachy colours came up at auction and I got it. I was thrilled. To actually own one! It sits in my office and I see it every day.

Just look at the paintings here. They are fresh and alive. There is no hesitation nor overworking. All the colours are harmonious,  clear and sparklingly clean. In the Lighthouse: Opus 119, you can see how he establishes depth of field with the large bouquet signifying the here-and-now, and the lighthouse, small in the distance, an ever present available guiding spirit.

Now I was here, well before the crowds would arrive, at leisure to get up close and contemplate each painting carefully. I can find new things in his paintings every time I look. There are ways of using acrylic so that it creates it’s own texture like when oil paint separates slightly when diluted with water. It’s a glaze that leaves a pebbly surface – hard to achieve while still maintaining control in acrylics. There are the overlays areas of small strokes  built up in a stained-glass like fragmentation. Most of the paintings contain  a compendium of different marks that can run from flat and smooth, to build-ups of jagged, direct ones, overlaid one upon another, giving a richness of pattern or depth of color. And, holding all this together is an overall composition of a meditative nature and a sensation of light.

Hikari 3, John Koerner, Acrylic on Canvas, 42 x 52 inches

The Lighthouse Series was inspired by the Point Atkinson Lighthouse – a monolithic white tower in West Vancouver, visible on a clear day from the University of British Columbia where he spent his career teaching in the Fine Arts Faculty. The lighthouse recurs in many paintings, signifying the source of light and the power it gives to guide us spiritually, inspirationally and physically.

The Pacific Gateway series, implies the link between Canada and Asian countries, as well as signifying peace, a visual play on words with “pacific”. In addition there are paintings with a Japanese flavour with suggestions of Kimono shapes; and a some paintings of African landscapes.

Harbour Reflections, John Koerner, 36 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas, 1960

I couldn’t attend the opening due to another engagement, but once my other event was over, I hastened back to the Gallery to join the celebration. It was all but finished, but the attendance had been spectacular – well over 200 people had come. There were still at least 40 people there. John Koerner had already gone. But the symbiotic energy that was still reigning in the gallery  was exciting to join.  People did not want to go home!  Ted Lederer who owns the gallery greeted me in his usual enthusiastic fashion and immediately introduced me to David Bellman and Meirion Cynog Evans, the team of curators who had put up the show.

“You have to see this,” says Ted, leaving me with David, Meirion and a well known art collector in the back office where incoming new art is put out of the way of the day-to-day activities.

Up on the wall were some of Lionel Thomas’s late works, flowers on canvas painted in tempera, some geometric abstracts and exceptionally, about ten, two- sided copper enamel works. Size is approximately 8 x 10 inches. They are framed so that they can be seen as sculptures, free standing,  The color are brilliant (because copper enamelling is a process of affixing glass onto a metal base), with lots of pure bright hues of reds and blues. They are like jewels.

David Bellman and Merion Evans are in the process of preparing the Lionel Thomas collection of his works for an up-coming exhibition at the Elliott Louis Gallery. But that’s another story, since this was the celebration for John Koerner.

I couldn’t stay long; but was long enough to bring back some images to share on this blog.  Here are a few more favorites:

Still Life, John Koerner, Gouache, ink and paper collage, 1965

If you live in Vancouver, hasten to see this show. The  exhibition is very short – just 10 days in all, and it’s taken almost 20 years since the last retrospective of Koerner’s work.  It’s an opportunity not to be missed. It’s located at 258 East 1st Avenue, just one block east of Main and one north of Great Northern Way.

Check out the the Elliott Louis Gallery web-site. Lots of the Koerner images are there – but you will want to see the real thing. They are very tasty!

http://www.elliottlouis.com/

What I did today…

December 12, 2010

Captain America 12 Midnight, automotive enamel on board. 36 x 38 inches

My friend phones and says, “Haven’t seen you lately,” and I explain that I have been to Europe and saw a lot of contemporary art.  I recounted my journey briefly.

“I haven’t been around because I’m  being a bit of a hermit,” I add, “because I’ve had family staying with me and then I had repairs on my house that meant some difficulties with contractors.” I rattled off a litany of things I’d had to do since I returned from travels.

The upshot of our conversation was that he invited me to come to the opening the Elliot Louis Gallery, on Saturday afternoon. So today I took a trip into Vancouver for the reception of the Takashi Iwasaki solo show.

First stop on the trip to town was my faithful framer. I haven’t been there since before my show in July. It’s been a while!

I had three things to frame, and then a selection of  pre-cut mats to find. When all the business transactions were done, I and my friend Dorothy who  was also picking up things from the framer,  went to the 5th Avenue Terra Breads Cafe for lunch.

I never thought that a Foccacio bread with cheese, dill and potatoes (yes, roasted potatoes!) would be a good thing, but it was absolutely delicious – fresh from the oven and hot – like a pizza without the tomato sauce.  Dorothy was in a devil-may-care mood and plunged for a very wicked cinnamon bun drenched in caramel sauce. “You only live once so you might as well enjoy it,” she says as she tucks in, though we’ll both have to commit to some serious gym time to compensate for today’s food sins.

The Takashi Iwasaki show is on from November 30 to December 31st. It’s called Memories in Colour. I wrote about him recently here in the blog during the summer when the Drawn Festival was on so if you are interested in seeing more, visit artiseternal.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/drawn-ii

Kamidaredentou Takishi Iwasaka Thread on black canvas

The works in the show are mostly small, the smallest is 7 inches square and the largest is 14 inches square. They are done in stitchery in the finest detail, describing an iconography that looks like science-fiction doodles. They are bright and happily coloured. The images appear to be non-representational but occasionally they seem to have distorted, elongated figures much in the nature of Salvador Dali’s extruded people.

In smaller pocket galleries off the main space, there were some other treasures that I was delighted to see. First of all, there were three pieces by Tom Forrestall who was already a major talent in the late 1950’s with his egg tempera work. He attended the Fine Arts Faculty at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick and has worked in a style dubbed Magic Realism.

Falling Rider, Tom Forrestall, 20x 30.5 inches, egg tempera

His painting Falling Rider is remarkable for its detail and the impact it has once one realizes that the foreshortened body caught mid-air is crashing into a monster boulder head first.  The visored cap is flying away. The horse is startled but is not fleeing.

Second startling thing about this painting – the painting surface and frame are not a rectangle. The lower horizontal edge is much longer than the upper one giving an additional impression of the image hurtling forward into space.

The technique of egg tempera is painstakingly slow so the approximate 20 x 30 Falling Rider is big for this medium.  A much smaller painting, 8 x 7 inches, is ambiguous – Wreck in the fog. There are plenty of smallish boulders in the foreground and one is more brown than the others. Is it a rock? Or is is a dead body slumped over the damaged side? There’s a mystery. It is at once peacefully still and ominously foreboding.

Forrestall’s small nude is not, in my opinion, as successful. The technique of egg tempera requires small pointillist dots of colour. The female body ends up looking a bit furry rather than smooth-skinned as one might expect. The lighting isn’t quite right, for a Realist.

It’s interesting that he has written on the verso of the painting:

“It is part of my expression to distance myself from reality, this painting is entirely made up…it [is] real in one way and not in another”.

For a painter pegged as a Realist, the  statement seems rather contradictory.

His years of craft show through. He is a master of his medium and these works of his are lovely and rare to see in this corner of the world.

The paintings that I was most fascinated with though were those of 12 Midnight.

12 Midnight works with neon in some works, car enamels in Captain America, (see the image at top of the blog) calling on pop art and comic book imagery for his inspiration. There are two silk screen prints displayed, one with Woody Woodpecker, green dollar signs in his eyes, holding a big bag of money.  Gunland Series: Greed is the title. Another silkscreen print has a cowboy figure firing at Cat in a Hat called Gunland Series: Losing Your Innocence in a Parallel Universe.

12 Midnight’s large painting is on a wood panel and is painted with car enamel. The Captain America figure is  hard-edged and outlined like a comic book but the background is a mix of shiny car enamel and mat colour where the paint has soaked in.The contrast between the flat and the textured areas make this painting very visually rich. If I won the lottery, of all the ones I saw in the gallery, this is the one that is most dynamic and adventurous.  I would be pleased to hang it above my fire place.

There are other works of art by regular gallery artists to be seen – Helma Sawatsky, Carolyn Stockbridge, Frances Semple, Stephany Hemming and there is a large triptic of Jack Shadbolt. It’s a good show and worth a trip down to 1st avenue to see it.

When the schmoozing was done and we had inspected the pieces one by one, I went my way back home, parting company with my friend. It was a long trip home, just the thing to allow me to ingest all that good contemporary art that I was privileged to see today.

Intent

November 30, 2010

“I don’t really like them. What’s your intent? ” asks Mrs. Stepford next door.

Since I came back from a vacation filled with visits to contemporary museums and galleries, my art production has taken a 180 degree turn around.

“I don’t always know, when I start something new.” I answer. “I start intuitively. I know I want to accomplish something, but I’m not sure what. I’m just mucking around with paint. I have an idea what it might look like and an idea of how I will achieve it, but how I get there, in the end is much to do with how the paint works with me or against me. I put it on and manipulate it. I know how watercolor paint reacts with its surface and I hope to control it but that doesn’t always work and sometimes I have to find a way to get around something that happened during the process that I didn’t expect.”

“You’re painting sidewalk cracks?” she says, not really in disbelief, but nonetheless with some concern that this might not be too serious or that my intent might be spurious.

“Not sidewalk cracks. They are concrete floor repairs that I saw at the Musee d’Art moderne et contemporain in Geneva.  In fact these are realism.  They are paintings of something I have seen. They are modern found drawings, interpreted. ”

“Are you going to put one in the current group show?”
“Of course not.   They won’t fit in a Christmas show. Especially not a small works show. They all have to hang together. They have to be in context or they won’t be understood. It’s not that each one can’t stand alone, it’s just that the intent is clear when the viewer can see the context of them; that it’s not just throwing a paint pot at the paper. Each one is a specific discovery of how the paint flows but each is also a study in placement and spatial relationships. ”
“Think about Rothko and Jackson Pollock. One of their paintings stands alone now, and magnificently, I might add; but the first ones? Without seeing that they all spoke together, a single one would seem incomprehensible. It’s the context that speaks. ”

“True, too true,” concedes Mrs. Stepford.

“It’s a real leap of faith to go out on the edge like this. I like it. It’s not really comprehensible to myself yet. I just do it, knowing that I have a vision and an intuitiveness working for me and I have to follow it until I’ve seen it to a logical end.  It’s an exploration. I’ll try to explain it afterward. But right now, I’m just painting and I stop when it seems right.”

“You are getting better at this,” Mrs. Stepford says. “Before, you couldn’t even tell me what you were doing. Now at least you are trying to put it into words. This is a step forward.”

Mrs. Stepford is my devil’s advocate. She pushes me to express myself. She’s a great critic, in a positive sense. She doesn’t let me get away with drivel nor saccharine work. If it borders on it, she will push me into defending myself. It makes me examine what I”m doing with a fine tooth comb.

In fact, I have been very resistant to putting my intent on paper. I think that the work should speak for itself; that if words are necessary to explain it, then it has failed somehow. And yet, when I was recently traveling and absorbing the work of many contemporary artists whom I had never heard of before, I was glad of some explanation to help me understand what they were getting at.

My sister, also an artist, is staying with me for a couple of days.  We were driving this morning and had time to chat about our art work.

“I don’t understand why you didn’t want to connect with that gallery in Santa Fe that was looking for some abstract work. You do some pretty good abstract stuff. Why didn’t you send it?” she asked, then added, “I guess you had your reasons, but it seemed like such a good opportunity, and to waste it…. But you don’t have to tell me. ”

“That’s not a problem,” I reply. “I haven’t worked seriously for twelve years now. I don’t know where I’m going. A gallery needs to have a body of work to deal with. They have to promote an image. It has to be a vein of work that you can continue to produce in. I’m not there yet. I don’t know where I’m going or which of the various things I’m currently working on that  I will be able to continue on in. I have between ten and twenty works in that vein of metallic ink drawings that you like,  but they are old. I don’t know if I could keep on with it. And I want to produce a whole new body of work, something I can get my teeth into. I’m not there yet. I’m still fishing around with what direction I will take.”

“OK. I get it,” she answers. “I understand.” And we dropped the conversation.

Words. Ideas.

The world of art expects us to explain ourselves, to validate our work. I find it difficult to find words that don’t just feel hollow to me.  It all boils down to intent.

If you don’t explore, you don’t find something new. If I knew what I was looking for, precisely, it probably wouldn’t be interesting anymore.  I just have to keep painting and practicing. Something valid will come out of it.

Terry Nurmi – Inconceivable

June 4, 2010

Our best art comes from expressing our deepest concerns.  The more heartfelt a subject is, the more intensely involved the artist is, the better the final outcome is likely to be.

Thus, when a young woman’s heart bears the distressing failure to produce a child she so desperately desires and all other avenues have not helped to assuage the inability to conceive, and this same woman after years of putting away her personal pain decides to express it through her art to let it free, a most interesting body of work springs forth.

This woman is Terry Nurmi, who after years of trying various methods to understand and then conquer sterility, decided to explore her voyage through visual expression. Nurmi is rooted in her community and her community became not only the physical place in which she resides, but a larger community of women who share with her the frustration of trying to conceive a child.

Nurmi had spent years going in and out of clinics, being tested for this possibility and that, engaging in trials of Artificial Reproductive Technology treatment then waiting to see if they would bear fruit. Through those years, an idea germinated and grew. Nurmi would find a way to express the feelings of frustration, hope, disappointment, pain, envy, grief, and anger that a woman experiences.

When it came to realizing this exhibition idea, Nurmi called out to her sisters-in-infertility. She called upon the Infertility Awareness of Canada (IAAC), Fraser Chapter,  asking each women who was willing to contribute to the project to provide a collage that expressed their feelings. Those who responded were given a small round petri dish, a round, clear plastic laboratory dish,  in which to  provide a visual expression of their personal story. (Double click on each one to see it larger).

Nurmi then installed a black line on the wall to indicate a temperature chart and then placed these petri dishes at each point of the chart (see first photo, above). The chart takes up almost the full length of the gallery’s north wall.

This part of the collaborative exhibition mixes installation art (the temperature chart) with conceptual art (the petri dishes); and each of the petri dishes is a miniature collage “in vitro”, meaning “under glass”.

The following photos illustrate the diversity of image that resulted. Some are cold, keeping the viewer at a distance; others indicate frustration; still others manage a bit of black humour (the one with Frosty the Snowman). Some are empty (Anger)  awaiting the babies that do not come.

It was a delight at the exhibition to see people pouring over each one of these little, clear disk boxes. Raw sentiment is contained within.

Across  on the South wall of the gallery, are several cross-over drawings-become-watercolour (and some pastel). Each represents a baby in Nurmi’s life – babies belonging to  sisters and sisters-in-law; friends or extended family.

They express that fragile and innocent time a child’s life.  The infants are sleeping or just waking.

Knowing Nurmi, there is bittersweet heartache in these images that does not go away.  Yet these images capture the innocence and beauty of infancy.

From a technical point of view, these drawings are fresh and lively. Each is drawn with strong and sensitive  line, then  enhanced by chalk pastel and watercolour. She is mistress of her medium. The work exhibits a lot of freedom and yet there is nothing gratuitous. Every mark made is necessary to the drawing and the maturity of the hand is delightful to see.

Once again in reference to “in vitro” , each of these mixed media, mostly watercolour paintings is framed between Plexiglas and clips to reinforce the concept of “under glass”.

For more information on Terry Nurmi and the subject of Infertility Awareness, check out the article in the Globe and Mail of May 23rd, 2010

http://m.theglobeandmail.com/life/family-and-relationships/when-couples-come-to-terms-with-infertility/article1578863/?service=mobile&page=1

There is quite a bit more information on the web about this recent exhibition, so if you are interested, I’d suggest a Google search.

The exhibition is on until June 6th at the Fort Gallery in Fort Langley.

McCoffee

December 19, 2009

McCoffee Watercolour on a full sheet of Windsor and Newton  paper (24×32″)

I’ve struggled over this, my latest watercolour, over two months or more. I love this guy in camouflage having his coffee at MacDonald’s. It’s cool inside and dimly lit, no need for those shades, but they never came off. He can see out, you can’t see in.

He’s got a colleague with him, with his mitt wrapped around  his coffee, but you can’t see him, and Mr. McCoffee is not looking at him anyway.  McCoffee is alert, his ear stretching out to hear conversations around him. He’s finished his food – two empty boxes, a big white napkin scrumpled up on the left hand side.

Below, the table there is a profusion of pattern – the South West Indian flavour in colour and shapes and then McCoffee’s hand sitting idle.

It’s a slice of life, arbitrarily cut off on all sides. If I’d asked him for a photo, he would have straightened up and posed. This way, I got him – his erect quasi-military bearing, his ennui. At the same time, from a work-lifetime habit of being at the ready, all senses alert, you know he is very aware of what is going on around him.

The only thing that defines the edges of his arm is the shift from the camouflage pattern to the upholstery pattern. That was particularly difficult to achieve. Every time I painted something in this area, I had to stop and check if everything else was in value still, or I had to bring the other things up to the value of the last addition of colour. The other difficulty was working in such a dark range of colours in watercolour.

I’m used to the brighter range of colours, so working in the dark ranges was a challenge; and so was working with the napkins, both above the table and below. White is always defined by its shadows.

The painting probably refers most to the geometric genre of composition, but there are some difficult things here – the table top goes from left to right in the picture plane, cutting the painting in two unequal parts. Maybe it works on the “Rule of Thirds” also. What allows this composition to work, despite that dark force moving across, is that just above the line, the most interesting objects are compiled, disorganized, one after the other like a batch of unruly and  unkempt children standing in a row. There’s the napkin and then the MacDonald’s cup, then the boxes and then the coffee cup, each item demanding attention. The figure is the upright, perpendicular force, with the complicated details drawing the viewer in.

The man looks outwards to the right and this, composition-wise, could be a difficult and unwieldy thing, but in this image, there is tension between the person whose arm we see, which makes for a mystery. Who is his companion? What does our protagonist see? It keeps us in the image; and though it goes against “the rules”, it works.

I’m going to pack this one away for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes – maybe a week from now. Maybe there will be some minor adjustments, but I think it’s done.

Can anyone tell me what organization this uniform represents?  This fellow has a few stripes on his left sleeve.

Christmas is coming. I’ve invited people for Christmas day dinner. I need to pack up my watercolour gear and put it away so that I have use of that table. Like many of us, I suppose, I am very busy with seasonal events and preparations for Christmas Day.So I’ll probably be back after following Christmas, so….

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

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.

McDining – Privacy laws

August 5, 2009

There is no image to accompany this post. You will see why.

A couple of days ago, I posted my latest watercolour called “McDining” and if you look back a couple of posts, you will see a modified image of “McDining”, the object of a legal question.

I was uncertain as to my right to publish the painting since I had taken a photo of a man eating at McDonald’s without his permission. He had no idea that I was photographing him.

I have since altered the photo in Adobe Photoshop so that the face is missing. Anon is eating at McDonalds!

Over a late evening cup of tea at Mrs. Stepford’s place last night, I had a chat with her husband a well respected lawyer in town who is quite aware of legislation and precedence on this subject.

“I thought you guys knew this stuff a long time ago,” he exclaimed, chiding us on our ignorance concerning privacy laws. He explained:

Military and police have the right to capture a person’s image without their permission. It’s in the best interests of law enforcement and the public good.

But an individual is not allowed to take a picture of another individual without their permission and they may not publish it without the subject’s express permission.

“Well,” proposes Mrs. Stepford in support of my cause, “what if she took the picture before she asked permission and then asked him if she could take his picture afterwards, and he agrees. Couldn’t she use the picture?

Mr. Stepford is completely disgusted with our moral turpitude. No means no!

We run through a number of scenarios:

If a model is hired to be painted by an artist and takes money for it, it is assumed that he or she is giving permission in the process.

If you ask someone before you take the picture if they mind if you do so and they are willing, then you can take their photo, but if you want to paint them using the photo for reference, then you must also get their permission to use their image in the art work.
This applies to photographers, including the press who must ask permission before publishing a person’s picture that hits the six o’clock news.

So I guess my McDining is confined forever to my own private viewing. I could take a risk and show it, says my lawyer friend – a risk that might end up with a $20,000.00 fine if the owner of the profile decides to sue for the breach of his privacy.

Well, maybe a few friends will see my painting, McDining. And maybe, like Roger Bacon, I could distort the faces; or like those pop-up books we had as children, put someone elses face on the image, someone I know, who gives  me permission for the use of their facial image. Or maybe take some self-images to put in place of the colonel’s head.  It might be quite surreal.

I haven’t given up on my McDining image. It’s just got me thinking.  I shall try it again in another configuration.

McDining

August 3, 2009

Have I been too silent lately? Must be that I’ve been working at other things…

Like this!

I drew this in pencil first. It was too big a painting to try without some directions to follow. I haven’t been this ambitions for a long time.

I imagined this retired officer from the navy on his own on a sunny midday, stopping for a quick lunch. His dignity and military bearing – the straight back,the impeccably clean clothing, the formality of eating in a fast food outlet with a knife and fork – at once amused me and made me admire him.

There is a bit of mystery. Is his wife out shopping so he, not ever having had to look after his own meals, simply goes out for lunch rather than having to make sense of a home refrigerator?  He never lets his guard down. If he had to salute, he would do it crisply, precisely.

On the other hand, he has a flamboyant shirt. It’s the opposite of camouflage fashions.

He’s dressed for summer. The light pours into the place. Just beyond the window is a whole section of the restaurant set up with play equipment for kids. It’s just like boot camp with things to crawl through, things to swing on, to climb  and to slide down. Only these are coloured in bright primary colours and fluorescents of pink and orange.

And here’s the final (minus the face – see more recent post re privacy):

McDining a small anon

I think I will leave it up to look at for a week or two to see if there is anything else to be done.

This may be the only place that I publish this painting. I don’t know what official rules are. They seem to ask if the person knows they are being painted and whether one has permission. Quite frankly, I don’t.

I took the picture I was working from without the man’s knowledge. If I had asked to take his picture, he would no longer have had this terrific natural pose. He might not have wanted me to take one at all.

I have several other paintings I want to do in a similar vein – beautiful people, not in the magazine sense, but dignified, normal, doing what they do without affectation, without posing.  And here’s the other no-no. I’m working with photographs. Ones that I myself  have taken of people and of  situations that I find interesting or extraordinarily typical.