Sunday, February 27, 2011

2 days to A Day

Today, I finished sending out email and printed invitations to my Reception on March 12. I also made 4 posters - one for each VIRL branch in Nanaimo and one for each ice rink. I can print more if I need to. This means that, at least for now, everything is ready for A Day on Tuesday, March 1.

What a great February this has been! Last February, Mike's mom and my dad both died. They were both very old so we knew it was coming - but it was still very sad to see them go. After all, we had known them all our lives.

This February, we had planned to RV to Mexico but postponed it because my mom was not well and cancelled because of warnings from the Canadian government about crossing the US/Mexico border. Instead (in no particular order) we went to the Opera and Art Gallery in Vancouver, we went to a performance of the Getting Higher Choir (which my sister belongs to) in Victoria, we learned that a new grandchild is on the way, I started knitting a green baby blanket, we decided to have all our windows replaced and a fence built to keep out the deer, we joined the Everybody Sings Choir in Nanaimo, we helped out with the Power Squadron Boating Course, I helped with some changes to the Yacht Club policy on records management, we got a new dog, and the opportunity for my art show came up! Wow! Did I mention, we GOT A NEW DOG! Now that's a change after about 15 years of being pet-free and proud of it. Instead of a painting - here is a photo of Lexy!

Back to paintings trees in a couple of days!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

It Really is Happening

It really is happening! My paintings are really going to be in the Featured Artist Show at the Nanaimo Arts Council this March! The news release came out today in the Nanaimo News Bulletin and online in Harbour Living at

During the last few days Mike and I worked on framing my new paintings. They look pretty good but I think in future I will simply paint on the sides of the canvas and avoid a lot of extra work. If a painting needs framing later, it can be done professionally. I also cleaned up the ten old paintings for the show - all of which I painted at least 28 years ago. Again the frames are all home-made - but they look OK. Some of them were pretty dusty but now they are clean and solid and ready to travel. I was glad to get that job done.

I've also been making cards of my five new paintings. I bought Avery cards from Staples and used a template from Design and Print that I had bought awhile ago. My paintings are printed right on the card stock - not on glossy photo paper. I tried using a cheaper card stock from Gartner but the picutes looked very dim and dull - no matter how much I lightened and brightened the photos or set the printer to "best photo" and "enhanced photo." So I had to go back to the more expensive Avery products. I found little clear cellophane envelopes or "archival bags" today at Michaels - to put them in. I think they will look pretty nice.

The other thing I have been doing is making invitations to the reception will be March 12, 2-4. I am using the Gartner card stock to do that - and because the pictures are smaller they look OK.
I am also sending emails and people are being so supportive and great.

Odette at the Arts Council told me that this project of art shows is a whole different side to being an artist. It does use other skills. I think my years at the library and teaching online gave me some insights into how to go about it. The main things seem to be to keep very organized and don't panic when you think your technology might fail.

Tomorrow I have my first training session working as a volunteer at the Gallery. Another new adventure.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Exciting Week

This was a very exciting week! I had hoped to show one or two of my new paintings at the Nanaimo Arts Council Gallery but, because the artist who was supposed to be the Featured Artist for March had to cancel, I was invited to be the Featured Artist instead.

This is a whole new world for me. I did put some of my paintings at the Malaspina Gallery Juried Exhibitions back in the early 1980s but I have never done anything like this. I am pretty nervous about putting my paintings up for everyone to see - but the biggest challenge is trying to figure out what the prices will be. The NAC Gallery is sales gallery so everything has to be for sale. I think I will set the prices relatively high - since I was advised that art patrons don't like it when artists suddenly raise their prices. I would like to sell some paintings - but on the other hand - it feels a bit like selling my children! However, there is really nowhere else in the house to hang the new things I have been doing.

Now that I am a member of NAC, I will need to volunteer three 4 hours shifts a month. I think it will be interesting to meet the other members. I am very excited to be part of Nanaimo's Arts scene and can't quite believe how suddenly this has all happened. In fact, to be honest, I am completely blown away by the fact that I am now actually an artist!

I have decided to show 10 of my Cowichan Paintings and 5 new ones. The name of my show will be Penny Grant: Looking Forward and Looking Back. My next job is to write my bio and finalize my paintings list. I will work on that tomorrow.

This month is the first anniversary of my dad's death and Mike's mom's death. I can't help thinking about them as I start this new adventure.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

MIll Painting - Again

Here it is again. I decided that the horizon clouds were too high and floating cloud was too weird. So I had another go at it. In the process I introduced some swirly lines in the spirit of Emily Carr's later works - which are full of shimmering swirls. I think it might be done and am ready to move on to my trees - armed with more experience trying to use ideas from BC's iconic Emily Carr. BTW - The horizon cloud is intentionally going up on the left - because that it what it does in one of my photos - but it may look like a mistake - which wouldn't be good.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Harmac Mill Reworked

Here is my latest work on on my Harmac Mill painting. I spent about 5 hours working on it today. I thought it might be a good idea to put some smoke stacks and other buildings into the painting to make it clear where the plume is coming from. I was happy to find a photo that I had taken that really helped. Although the photo also had the red container loader on Duke Point and a yellow ship in it - I only needed two stacks and some large vat-like things to suggest the mill. So I put them in.

The next thing was expand the funny little balloons and pipes at the base of the plume. I enlarged them and gave them some shape. Then I worked on the sky to the right of the plume. I mixed up various combinations of cobalt blue, cerulean blue, yellow and white and dabbed away to keep the strokes coming inward toward the mill buildings - but darker and stronger than they were - to be equal with the plume. I did a lot of brush work on the low cloud on the horizon and some more darkening of the main plume itself. The horizon cloud is a common feature of our landscape and I wanted to keep it as a repeat of the horizonal shoreline.

Mike suggested that I make a reflection or a shadow of the plume on the water. I thought a shadow would give me the opportlunity to make a triangle coming up from the bottom of the painting to meet the point of the big plume triangle. I made a separate shadow for the small side plume. Then I made several attempts at adding a cloud on the right side of the sky - based on the high clouds in my original photo and in the same style as the clouds in my red buoy painting - pointy. I couldn't think of anything else to do - but still wasn't completely happy. Then it struck me that I could weave the plumes together. This allows the plume to open at the bottom like a flower and then come back together in a satisfying, almost architectural way. I didn't change the two shadows on the water. The bright space between can now be read as the reflection of the plume or the space between the shadows. I think it is nice to be a bit ambivalent.

To get inspiration for fixing this painting I had a look at some of the paintings by Van Gogh. What a fabulous artist he was. He didn't paint much water as far as as I can see but his paintings are absolutely stunning. Of course I knew about his sunflowers, starry skies, irises and self portraits but there is so much more. Here is a link

As far as other artistic efforts recently: On the weekend we went to Vancouver to the Opera - The Clemency of Titus which had great sets. We also went to the Vancouver Art Gallery to look at We:Vancouver and Ken Lum's work. All this art had some social value. Here is a link to the exhibitions:

As result of visiting the Art Gallery, I had an interesting thought. It seems to me that celebrating the beauty of Nanaimo is a good aim for my painting - but maybe I should also put in a tiny bit of social comment. Although I did not want my mill painting to be an environmental protest, I am quite concerned about all the plastic bottles that float around in the ocean and I thought I could paint a tiny plastic bottle somewhere in my paintings - floating in the beautiful water, lying on the glorious forest floor, hidden in other shapes. I'm not sure. I don't want it to be gimmicky and spoil each individual painting - but it would tie the pictures together and I think it might give a bit more meaning to what I am trying to do. Before I try it, I need to paint a picture of a whole bunch of bottles. So I will leave it for now - while I work on my tree paintings.

If you are interested in looking at my paintings on my website got to

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New ideas and forest paintings

Today I went to Island Girl's Open Studio to ask for a crit. Penny liked my "moon painting" and my "gap painting." She pointed out is that they are both water and sky paintings and that the sky and water in both pictures have almost the same strength - so the sky and water balance each other out but there is also an interesting tension between them. She pointed out how in the gap painting the sharp swirly clouds above are reflected in the dark swirly waves below. I hadn't realized that - but will try to keep that in mind in the future. There are lots of things that make a painting work - and that is one of them.

Penny had some ideas for improving my "mill painting" which made sense to me. Although the painting is currently a pretty good representation of the two photos, the plume is too strong compared to the sky. Or to put is another way, the sky is not strong enough. It needs to be strengthened - probably by adding more darks, thickening the paint and defining the soft bands of cloud. She also pointed out that the small plumes at the base of the main plume are not finished. I can now see that they look like pieces of pvc pipe more than clouds! This was very helpful and I will make the changes soon and see what happens.

I also showed her my inspiration photos for my two new forest paintings. I have actually started to sketch them. They are both on quite big canvases (24" by 36") .

One will be the trail to Ammonite Falls. I took the picture a couple of weeks ago. The interesting thing is that someone else at Penny's studio is painting the same scene but in acrylics and with a little dog on the path. I am trying to get an Emily Carr feel to this scene.

Here is the photo.

Here is the preliminary sketch. I think I may do a real Emily Carr thing and put some sunshine on the little trees that appear directly above the path.

The other forest painting will be a tall big leaf maple just beginning to leaf out and catching the April sun within the dark evergreen forest. I took this picture at Linley Valley in 2005 and have thought about it ever since. I sent it in to the City as a reason that they should make Linley Valley a park! The new leaves are just gleaming against the the darker backdrop. I don't think the photo completely captures the amazing sight - perhaps the painting will.

Here is the photo.

Here is the preliminary sketch.

Again, I will try an Emily Carr approach.

I asked Penny about the Nanaimo Arts Council and she gave me a name to contact.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mill Painting Done

I think my painting of the plume of the Harmac Mill is done. I ended up using the image from my photo of the plume on a dull grey day and the the colours from my photo of the plume on a sunny blue day. I think it turned out quite well. I particularly like the way the blue and turquoise of the sky are not quite blended together. You can see the individual brush stokes. I think this makes the picture more scintillating.

This painting is not intended as an anti-pollution picture - like the Jane Cole image of a duck in muck that I saw on exhibit at the VIU Nanaimo Art Gallery. I think the plume is an important part of the Nanaimo skyline and beautiful in its way. Harmac was closed down for a couple of years and I was glad to see the plume come back when the mill was bought by the employees.

So now it is time to move on to something else. I have gone through all my digital photos of Nanaimo and Newcastle Island and think I will do (1.) a painting of the trail to Ammonite Falls in Benson Creek Regional Park, (2.) a painting of a fishing boat heading out across the gulf, and (3.) a painting of a beautiful golden wintery sunset looking from Newcastle Island toward Nanaimo with Mount Benson in the background. I had thought that it was time to move on from water and sky - but almost all my photos of Nanaimo include water and sky and that is what I think about when I think about "the beauties of Nanaimo." The photo of the Ammonite Falls trail does not include any water and only a small patch of sky - so I think I will start with it. It has a lot of tall Douglas fir trunks which should be interesting to paint.

I'm going to start by looking carefully at my Doris Shadbolt book of Emily Carr paintings to see if I can learn anything from her approach. Emily Carr was about my age when she really got going with her paintings of BC. My mother was a huge fan and Emily Carr has been part of my mental landscape since I was about 12 years old. I think she did some wonderful iconic paintings that should inspire anyone trying to paint the Vancouver Island landscape.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Two Paintings Done?

I did a bit more work on my "moon painting" - mainly changing the outline of the mountains which had got too far away from the real thing, adding some more white to the moon's reflection, and adding a few more pinkish street lights. I think this painting is really finished now. In fact, I "declare it finished' - no more mucking about. I hope it is not too sweet. I'm going to call it "Nanaimo - Summer Night."

I think my "gap picture" is finished too. I went a little wild on the sky. Partly I was motivated by the cool sky in my moon painting. Partly I was inspired by Emily Carr's fabulous skies in her later paintings. However, Emily did not provide any ideas for the water - since she hardly seems to have painted water scenes at all. Now that I am rereading her biography by Maria Tippet, I think the glare of sunshine on the ocean gave her a headache. So, as you can see, the sky and the clouds are quite dramatic. Of course, the main thing that catches your eye is the red starboard hand buoy in the middle. So, I "declare" this picture finished too - no more mucking about with it either.

The name of the buoy is P12 - so that is what I'm going to call the painting - "Nanaimo Harbour - P12"

Today we joined a community choir. My sister is in a choir in Victoria and we went to her concert on the weekend. I am listening to the CD right now. It is wonderful. Our choir seems great too - especially for non-singers like Mike and me. It meets in the basement of St Andrews. I am upping my asthma medication so I can actually sing a few notes. Skating, painting, singing - who needs to go away when there is all this and more to do in Nanaimo.

Next week I will get back to work on my "mill painting." Right now I cannot see in my mind how it could look. My two photos don't really fit together. I like the bright summer colours in one and the big upside down triangle of a plume in the other. However, I suspect that a good plume only appears when the sky is overcast and the air is very damp. My original idea had been a lot of towering clouds in shades of green - but now I don't think that would work. There is too much sky and, once again, a lot of water. It wouldn't work if it were too green. I will look at some more Group of Seven paintings and see if I can get an inspiration from them - though I don't suppose any of them painted a pulp mill.

Anyway - I have achieved my target milestone and more. I said back in November that I would consider myself back to painting once I had done three paintings - and now I have done four!