So I didn’t actually go to Radium to paint this–it was a commission painting that I did at the end of November and it was painted from a photograph. It was an interesting challenge for me and very different from the way I usually work. I ended up setting up my easel in the living room so I could still paint in natural light, as if I was still painting it from life, and I used my laptop to view the photo while I painted. I painted it over several days and in the same time period every day which turned out to be between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm as it was the best light in the living room. Also maybe because I imagined that the light in the photo was more of a morning light, although I could see it being afternoon light as well.
It was very different from life painting–a completely different skill set. The biggest difference, aside from the light and not being there in person, was the sense of time and urgency, if that makes sense. With a frozen image, I could work forever on it, but that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. I think I have honed a skill of making snap decisions on site, and editing, and working quickly. With this one I constantly felt I was close to overworking it. Now I don’t think that I did, but I had to keep stepping away from it and stopping myself before I went too far. This is something I have always had to work on, even when painting on site. One of my University professors once told me that I should always stop just BEFORE I think I am done because I had a tendency to overwork things.
And just for fun, here is a lovely and loose in-progress shot :)
It has been a long time since I have been in an art show. I have been painting the whole time, just not showing my paintings anywhere other than on social media. But there really is no substitute for a real live art show. Maybe it has taken the time we had in quarantine and all the restrictions and closures for that to really hit home. This pandemic has shown us all that we can accomplish virtually and online, but it has also highlighted what we are missing. Paintings always look better in real life. I can take photos and photos and photos, and even when I think it is a near perfect match to the colour of the real painting, it still just looks better in real life.
These four paintings, my newest plein air pieces that I painted over the last few weeks, have been accepted into a juried plein air art show at the Leighton Art Centre south of Calgary. We drove out there this morning to deliver the paintings, and I got to browse their gallery space. All the artists and paintings that I have been enjoying on social media as everything shifted online, now there in front of me; the pleasant surprises of seeing the scale and colour of the paintings in person, and names that I recognized from virtual shows, was a treat for my senses.
If you live near the Calgary area I highly recommend visiting the Leighton Art Centre, not only for the art, but the property also sits on a piece of land with amazing panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains and the foothills.
The show that I will be a part of is called In The Open Air and it will be running from September 12th through October 31st, 2020.
I meant to do a blog post last week, but I completely missed it so I will just have to blog about both these painting days at once.
The first painting was done August 12th during a little day trip we took south of Calgary. It was on a little side road just off highway 22. I was sitting right next to a field and there were swarms of these tiny flies that got into everything. Quite a few of them lost their lives in the painting as I couldn’t get them all off so I just painted over them. The joys of plein air painting! I must admit though, I have never had an experience quite like that one. I am pretty proud that I kept going until the painting was done, inspite of the flies.
The second painting was done this week on August 19th when we decided to do a little road trip from the “hump” to the “gap”. I had never heard of either of these spots until I got a book out from the library all about the Cowboy Trail. The trip started with highway 532 west of highway 22, then went south down highway 734, and then jogs back along highway 517. The “hump” refers to a high point along highway 532 where you can see seemingly forever, and the “gap” is between two mountains on highway 517. I initially thought I would paint the view from the hump, but it was super, super windy, and it was a small, somewhat treacherous road with no real spot to set up and paint. The road is closed in the winter and there are signs that no trailers are aloud. I don’t think a vehicle with a trailer would make it up that road. However we did sit and eat a picnic lunch by the road there and it was beautiful. The painting I did was done along highway 734 when it was around 6:00. It was also pretty windy there, and at one point the painting flipped off of my easle and landed on my shoulder while I was bending down to clean a brush. I was so frustrated and ready to quit, but again I kept going. I had to repaint the sky when I was frantically trying to capture the light, and I now have another studio shirt, but I finished the painting!
Here is a couple of on site photos from that second painting day–one in progress with the light I was trying to capture, and one with the finished painting, but the sun had gone behind the mountains by then. Both photos were taken from where I was painting in the shadow of the van so they are not accurate to the colour of the painting, but I like that they show the quickly changing light.
We took a day trip through southern Alberta on Wednesday. It was a beautiful hot and hazy day. We took a cooler full of food and stopped at a few spots to picnic along the way. First we stopped at the candy store in Nanton, then went to see the Frank Slide and then on through Pincher Creek. We stopped along a secondary highway just west of Pincher Creek for me to do these little plein air paintings. The first one was the hazy one with the little fence posts–I was facing north and it was around 6 pm. Then I stood up and turned around and the view behind me had completely lit up in the dusk evening summer light with bright yellow fields and hazy purple mountains. I sat back down and did a quick second painting of the view facing south. It was around 8 pm by then and the light was changing fast. By the time my husband took the photo the light was much more orange, but I didn’t want to change the intense yellows I had captured so that is when I called it a day. I don’t know if I have ever painted on site with this type of light–at dusk in early August during a heat wave. It felt like a completely new experience for me. Like I was not in Alberta. I think most of my plein air landscape painting has been done in the middle of the day in June or July although I would have to go back through my records to make sure. It makes me want to go back to that same spot at all different times of the year and day to compare.
A friend from work passed away just over a week ago. He was younger than me–only 32. I thought I knew him fairly well, even though I was just getting to know him. But now I feel like I did not know him at all.
There were sides to him that I knew nothing about–he had a radio show on the local college radio station, that I knew nothing about. It was all pre-WWII music, all 78rpm records. I have been listening to it now, and I am in awe that he left such a legacy. That he was able to share his passion with the world. I still can’t believe he’s gone. It feels like he is just on vacation. Anytime I think about it I cry.
I have never quite figured out how to share my paintings with the world in any meaningful way. Did Jeff ever feel his radio show was pointless? I don’t know. I feel like I am only doing half an assignment. I go out and I paint, but I can’t get further than that. I am trying to remember back to my University days–what the next step is.
I missed the memorial they had for him at the King Eddy in Calgary–I had pre-booked a mini vacation for my family in Drumheller that week. So I went to Drumheller and I did a watercolour there and I thought about the stupid randomness of life and of who lives and dies.
I apologise for the bleakness of this post. I have not figured anything out.
I finally got around to trying out my new watercolour pens that I got for Christmas. For this sketch I worked from a photo from a recent drive through Jasper because it was really cold today and I was just hunkered down in the living room to paint. It might just have to be a photo reference week while I play with these pens.
I am really loving how super pigmented these watercolour pens are. That is one thing I am always a little unhappy with when I am using watercolour–the paintings might be nice and bright when I am painting, but they always dry a bit paler. I guess the fix for that would be to build up the painting in layers…OR, I could just use these watercolour pens! Look at that blue!
These are really fun to use too–I just started playing with them and finished this sketch before I thought to look up how to use them, but I more or less used them correctly. There doesn’t seem to be a wrong way to use them–you can use them directly on the paper and then add water to the stokes with a brush, you can add a water wash to the paper and then “paint” with the pens in the water, or you can dip the pens straight into the water and then draw with them.
So I am pretty excited to do some more sketching with them and I am aiming to get back into doing one blog post a week. I have taken far too much time off.
Calgary got a huge dump of snow and it is beautiful. Not so good for anyone having to drive, but lucky for me I didn’t have to leave the house today. Seeing as I didn’t have to go anywhere, I decided to get out my acrylics and do a “real” painting of the view from the dining room of the back alley with all the fresh snow. I don’t know why watercolour paintings always feel like studies to me; I think I actually paint better with watercolour, but I LOVE painting with acrylic! And what I mess I made too. I even put down a shower curtain where I set up my easel in the kitchen, but I still managed to get paint on the microwave.
It was so much fun. After working in tedious watercolour for so long it was glorious to just slather on the paint like I was icing a cake.
There has been beautiful skies all this week. It was a good week to start painting again. I did this one on Tuesday along with two smaller cloud studies, switching between them when one was too wet to work with. They were good paintings for shaking out the cobwebs.
Aside from that I’ve been spending a lot of today perusing Pinterest and Instagram and feeling that I am out of touch and years behind with all this. I am embarrassed to say that yesterday was the first time I’ve used a hashtag. Small steps, small steps, I’ll get there eventually. I used to joke to my husband that one day I was going to “Emily Carr it”–i.e. go live in a van in the mountains by myself and just paint. I kind of still want to do that–maybe we all want to do that. For now I’ve made a fresh pot of coffee and then it’s time for my second super Instagram post!