Wednesday, March 30, 2011

More on the maple

I worked some more on my maple picture today. I seem to be having the same challenge as I had with my VIU Forestland painting. I am trying to suggest a lot of trees without wanting to paint each tree individually- but unless I figure out which branches belong to which tree and paint them accordingly I just have a mess. This means I have to simplify somewhat - but not too much or I will loose the sense of a lot of trees in a fairly dense forest. I had a similar challenge with my Boats in Newcastle Channel - trying to paint boats in the foreground and the background so that they were identifiable - while still suggesting that there are other boats where only the masts are showing.

Yesterday we went to Victoria and were able to spend half an hour at the Royal BC Museum looking at a display called "The Other Emily." It depicts the young life of Emily Carr based on early photos and a few of Carr's own works. The artist had reproduced the photos as fairly large paintings. I had seen most of the photos before and wasn't overly impressed by the contemporary artist's impressions mainly because the show seemed to focus more on her than on Emily Carr.

One of the paintings was a sort of reflection of Carr's large painting of three totem poles and several cedar lodges in Haida Gwai - and, because it was based on an actual photo, it showed Carr herself at work in the middle of the scene. It was a cool idea to have the actual Emily Carr painting and the photo together - separated by a piece of totem pole - but the contemporary painting was terrible. The brilliant green of the forest was completely unlike any green ever used by Emily Carr or any green ever seen in a BC forest.

The other thing that bugged me was that there was so much fuss made about the young Emily Carr going out into the bush to paint - because this just wasn't done in those days. I don't believe this is quite true - since Carr always seems to have stayed with missionaries when she was in the bush - so there other women out there ahead of her doing their thing. Also, people seem to think it is odd that Emily Carr didn't marry - but neither did her sisters who pursued their own careers.

I was glad to get close to some of Carr's actual works - she was a very smooth, neat painter - quite lovely - but the display itself didn't quite work for me.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Maple in Linley Valley

Last week was Spring Break, my son-in-law and two oldest grandsons came for a visit. We all went snow-shoeing at Mount Washington. There is still a terrific amount of snow up there - 7 meters to be precise - and it was snowing most of the time we were there. In the evening we watched The Matrix - a pretty artful and awe-inspiring day!

On Thursday I took my VIU Forestland painting to Open Studio at Island Girl Art Studio and, with encouragement from Penny, I dropped it off later at the Nanaimo Arts Council Gallery for the Spring Show Case. I am happy with it after having not seen it for a while. Talking about VIU, the faculty strike is still going on - more than two weeks now.

Another great art moment last week was that we repainted my art room - pure white. Mike had painted the walls golden yellow when we set the room up about 12 years ago - for me to work on my PhD and I spent many, many hours working in their golden glow. But once it became an art room, I found I couldn't see the colours properly at night - so it was time for a change.

On the weekend my brother and sister-in-law and my sister and partner all came up from Victoria to see my art show. I was so happy - thrilled really - that they came all this way just to see my paintings. It has been wonderful to get so much support from my family and friends for my art show. While we were at the show I realized that most of my cards have been purchased, so I printed some more and will take them in tomorrow.

Yesterday and today I worked on my painting of a shimmering spring maple in Linley Valley and I am pretty happy with how it is turning out. It is a fairly challenging painting because it is all trees and everything is basically green. So far I am only using blue, payne's grey, yellow and white. I will probably add a tiny bit of red in the foreground to give it a bit of depth and sense of dead maple leaves lying about. Here it is:

The strange thing is that walls in the art room look mauve in the photo! A very pretty colour but very odd! They really are pure white! the other odd thing about the photo is that the trees outside the window almost look as if they are an extension of the painting. Hmmm.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Yesterday was my 69th birthday. This seems pretty old to me! But I think I have felt the same way about every birthday - so it's not a surprise.

I feel great (except I have a cold) and know that I am one of the luckiest people in the world. I wish I could do something about the serious issues of life - like the earthquake in Japan, the freedom fighters in Libya, and even the street people in our city - but I guess I had that chance when I was a librarian ... Now I will try to celebrate life - which I think is also important.

I finished my painting of the trail to Ammonite Falls - at least I think I did. I think it is OK - but I haven't lived with it long enough to know what it's really like.

My plan is to enter it into the NAC Spring Showcase - which is in April and has Earth Day as the theme. Earth Day is intended to remind us about the environment and I am going to use the painting to try to make a positive statement about Nanaimo. The trail to Ammonite Falls actually goes through the VIU Wood Lot. The VIU Forestry Program advertises itself as teaching students how to "manage and protect the environment." So, in honour of Earth Day and Nanaimo's contribution to the environment, I am naming my painting "VIU Forestland." Here it is:

The main difference from last time is that the centre of the light in the forest is more emphasized, the side of the trail is rougher and there are more branches on thearbutus. Also, I have signed it and have painted the sides and the top and bottom so it doesn't need a frame.

Now onto my big leaf maple in Linley Valley. I think this painting will be much more impressionistic and free - but who knows. I met get hung up. The painting should be impressionistic since it is more about atmosphere than a real object. I'm using Emily's Carr's "Clearing" to inspire my colours - sort of.

I realize that the photo is not a good representation of the colours in the painting since there is actually no pink in it - yet. Everything is just a turpentine wash right now - while I try to get the shapes and values organized before I go full tilt.

If, by chance , I get this painting done by March 31, I will put it in the NAC Spring Show Case too. The picture is actually of a tree in the Crown Land adjacent to the Linley Valley Park - not int he park itself. I once sent the original photo to someone (NALT or DBNA) to support making the Crown Land into a Park - so the painting would be appropriate for Earth Day but in a different way from "VIU Forestland."

It is a little nerve racking to think of entering a contest after having had my own show - but that is part of being in the art world in Nanaimo. I'll try to focus on appreciating the other paintings and being part of a community of artists and forget the fact it is a competition.

We often walk in this part of "Linley Valley" and it is beautiful any time of year. Hopefully we will soon have Lexy well-enough trained that we can walk there again without fear of a dog-ruckus!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

After the Reception

My Reception at the Nanaimo Arts Council Gallery was a wonderful day! My kids and their spouses, my three grandsons and my sister and brother-in-law all came over from the mainland on Saturday morning. We had a nice festive lunch at our house. Then some of us went to the Gallery to set up the coffee and tea, nanaimo bar, dates and grapes. A fellow Arts Council volunteer, Paul, took charge and set everything up. Vi and a student worker manned the counter. At two o'clock, people began to arrive. I had invited quite a few people but had no idea who would come.

The first to arrive was Robin Field my first art teacher from Cowichan Valley Days! I was so happy to see him! Soon after that many friends from ice-dancing, my dentist, my investment guy, Penny Maday my new art mentor, my neighbour, a friend from the Yacht Club, and a friend I worked with for many years arrived. Also some people I had just met at Everybody Sings, our morning singing "cluster." It was wonderful that so many people came. While I was working for VIRL, I was so busy working that I didn't have much time for friends. Since the library served the whole island (almost) I always felt I needed to be interested in all the communities on Vancouver Island - not just Nanaimo. It is so freeing to feel that I am actually becoming part of Nanaimo. That's why we live here! Plus - my families' support was the greatest!

By 4 o'clock everyone had gone home. I, Paul, Paul's sister, my son-in-law, and my my sister-in-law and brother-in-law sat in the folding chairs among the pottery - waiting for 4 o'clock to strike - while Paul's sister told us about events that had been happening at the nearby Subway store. She had been sent by Paul to buy him a couple of subs. It was the Subways grand opening and they had a two-for-one sale going on - so there was a long line-up. Apparently, while she was standing in line, a teen-age boy collapsed into her arms - having had much too wild a time the evening before and not enough food today. His low-slung jeans fell off - much to her embarrassment! 911 was called and the ambulance came. His father was not impressed! Neither was she!

Today I got back working on my painting of the trail to Ammonite Falls. I had been feeling at loss about what to to do about it. To me, it had turned to mud - well, maybe more like gray clay. I really could not figure out what colour I had painted the space between the the trees trunks. I had originally planned to make it mauve - but had put on so many different colours that it had become a very strange yellowish-blueish-mauvish-pinkish-greenish mix. The sky above had been pale blue, strong pink and was now muddy blue again. Because the trunks were all reaching skyward, the painting seemed way too long. I was seriously worried that I had lost it. I would never do another good painting.

However, wonderful Penny Maday pointed out that the problem was not so much the colours as the values. I needed stronger darks and lights. She recommended making the sky above the trees almost white and picking out bits of white light further down - plus making the shadows under the salal shrubbery and arbutus much darker. I have been working on that and I think it is much better. I also think that part of my problem is that, although I have excellent flourescent lighting in my art room, the walls are yellow walls and the reflected colour distorts the colour of the picture. Mike painted the room for me when I was working on my PhD and it was an excellent colour for thinking postmodern thoughts about public libraries - but I think I need white walls if I am going to keep on painting. It is a rather odd sensation not to be able to see the colours in a painting.

Here it is.

By the look of the photo, I think it may be almost done. Can you see the shiny leaves in the salal and arbutus? It may be a bit too neat - but maybe neatness is my style. Whippee! On to my big leaf maple in spring in Linley Valley. It will be a real challenge to get a good composition as there is no path to give it a focus.

On a dog note - we are working hard to teach our dog to be a willing partner with us. She is very loving and incredibly obedient in the house but she is really tough to take on a walk. She wants to be the leader and gets over-excited (reactive) when she sees other dogs. Last night we took her to her/our obedience class and she pulled and lunged trying to "attack" the other dogs instead of sitting nicely on her mat. We know we are the ones who have to learn how to communicate with her - but it is a challenge.

Boating friends from Chemainus came for lunch today - and to see my art show. What a great life!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

More on Ammonite Falls

I have worked for a couple of hours each day on Ammonite Falls. Yesterday I had the sky a beautiful pink with golden pink at the top. It was a great colour but the picture looked awful - so bad, I didn't even take a photo. I was worried that when my family arrive on the weekend they would know that I had lost it as an artist. Like I said - pride goes before the fall.

So today I thought about what I should do and this evening, I painted over the pink with white and cerulean blue and - lower down - cobalt blue. I muted the very pink interior of the forest with cobalt blue and made a brighter patch behind the central very small douglas fir. There are some really cool spots on my painting that look sort of like stained glass. However, it is not yet working as a whole. I think the current problem is the path - which is the wrong colour and looks humped up in the middle rather than well-worn. Also the shrubbery is the wrong colour and big tree trunks are way too messy. However, I don't want them to be too neat - as the rest of picture is intentionally messy. Well- we'll see what happens tomorrow.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More on Ammonite Falls

I worked on my Ammonite (Benson Creek) Falls picture for a couple of hours yesterday and a couple of hours today. I changed the shape of the road and put more pink and gold into the sky. I started to work on the tops of the Douglas firs - the hardest part for me. I find it really challenging to envision how the fir branches should look when they are painted. Emily Carr blends the branches together into rolling sheets or green teepees - but that's not how they look to me. She does a wonderful job on tree sillouettes - but this painting is not about sillouettes. Other painters show the individual branches - but that doesn't seem right either. At this pint mine are separate branches. I need to experiment - based on looking at real firs -we have many in our garden - and the firs in the photo. Maybe I can find another painter to inspire/inform me.

I also redid the fir trunks - partly to show more clearly which ones show up as having light coloured bark and which ones are in silouette - and partly to get the tops of the trees to line up with the bottom of the tree trunks. I was quite surprised by how far out the bottoms were - and had to change a lot of them. I am still really working on shapes and not colours - so my mauve mistiness between the tree trunks is not the final colour - though not too far off. I also worked on the shrubbery beside the road. By the time I got to working on it, I was much freer and less worried about making them correct. I think they look really good in the photo - but probably not as good in the painting. I will have another good look - to see how they are turning out. The shrubbery on the left is salal, dead bracken and small firs. The main shrub n the right is a young leafy arbutus. It is not at all like the first arbutus I painted.

We took our new cocker spaniel Lexy out on our boat for the first time today - and walked 10 km around Newcastle Island. I took lots of photos - the best being of the Harmac Mill and Dodd Narrows, the ferry coming across the Strait (from Giovandi Lookout,) and boats in Newcastle Channel. I have already done paintings of the mill and channel - but I think these photos will allow me to do others - sort of variations on a theme.

Dodd Narrow and the Mill. Grea sky and water. Strange smoke on Gabriola Island.

Ferry coming across the strait. Looks like a postcard for BC Ferries. Too bad you can't see Bowen Island. Maybe I can fake it.

Fabulous boats and buildings. It will be worth the struggle to get them right.

Question: Why do I want to paint these scenes when I already have pretty nice photos? It's fun I suppose. You really get to know a scene better when you try to paint it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

To emulate Emily or not to emulate Emily

Today, I finally got back to my painting of the trail to Ammonite Falls. I think the first go-through with colour and the first attempt to create the design is lots of fun. I know that the final painting will look quite different in all the details so don't need to get too worried about how it looks now. But I also know that the first layer of colour will sort of be the "bones" of the painting. Everything can be changed - but chances are some of the original will remain.

Right now I think the overall design is good, but the road is too red - it was more pinkish - and the trees and bushes are too green - they were more misty blue-green. The mauve haze behind the tree trunks is put on too solidly and the tree trunks themselves are not very graceful. And the sky is the wrong colour. It needs to be hazy like the forest - maybe a bit mauve. Maybe the pink road can give way to the mauve forest and then to a blueish-mauve sky - stronger in colour than the the current pale blue sky - with the greenish/blue forest encroaching onto the painting from both sides.

Right now everything is pretty sketchy. I don't want to make too much detail (e.g. no individual leaves) - but I'm probably not prepared to go quite as far toward abstraction as Emily Carr. Her many forest pictures depict the west coast underbrush as green eddies and swirls around the base of the trees and totem poles. I like them a lot - but... That being said, I think that it is quite proper and respectful for a west coast artist (which I am trying to be) to emulate Emily - our best known BC artist. She worked so hard to try to depict our huge forests. Maybe swirly underbrush and shafts of light from above will be the answer. Or maybe that will be another painting.

Eventually the picture will sort of take off on its own - so I'll wait and see what happens then.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What a great A Day!

Today was the day I hung up my art show at the Nanaimo Arts Council Gallery - 10 old paintings and 5 new ones. The hanging committee figured out where everything should go and the result was a great arrangement of colours and themes. Here is a picture Mike took after everything was hung.

I think it looks terrific. Do I sound proud? I think I probably am! But hopefully in a good way.

We were watching our Teaching Company dvd on The Passions (Emotions) tonight and the subject was "pride." Apparently the old Greeks (i.e. Homer and Socrates) thought that pride was a virtue. For them "pride" was the opposite to "shame."

By the Middle Ages, the Christian Church had decided that pride was one of the deadliest sins. For them "pride" was the opposite to "humility." I was raised on a variation on that view of pride and remember being told that "pride goes before the fall." It was almost a superstition - as soon as I felt really good about something I'd suffer some kind of a come-uppance.

Nowadays, pride seems to have come back into favour - as in "gay pride." I think the opposite to to our current idea about pride is "humiliation." Today we are proud of what we have accomplished. I have been trying to get over old superstitions - so will boldly say in this blog that I am proud of my show (and -oops- I hope that doesn't mean I never finish another successful painting).

Probably the best thing about my show is the way it is helping me connect with new people and reconnect with people I used to know. I was a bit nervous about sending out invitation emails and cards and am bowled over by people's great comments.

Friends from boating reminded me that last May, when we all cruised to Otter Bay on Pender Island, I spent a lot of time at a craft fair buying beautiful cards from a local artist. I had told them I was hoping to get back into painting - and, as my youngest grandson would say, " I did it!".

Truly a great A Day.