Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Looking at Impressionist Trees

I have been looking at impressionist paintings to try to get some idea on how the Impressionists painted trees - because I am scared to try anything else with my Swi-a-lana painting - for fear of ruining it.

This is a painting by Gauguin - meant to give me some insight for my Swi-a-lana painting.

Here is another one by Monet.

And another by Cezanne. I like them all - especially the Monet - I wonder if there is the slightest chance I could paint my Swi-a-lana trees like that. Tons of tiny bright dots of colour. I might give it a try when it dries.

Now to my chip barge painting...

I actually have a strong vision in my mind of how my chip barge painting should look. There is a a huge turquoise blue expanse of water with some ripples or foam in the foreground. In the distance at the top of the painting are the small but vividly yellow, green and red chip barges - strongly contrasting with the blue and with each other. It's how I remember the scene as we came back from our cruise in the Gulf Islands last summer. However, although I see top and bottom clearly, I cannot see the sky or what is in the distance behind the chip barges (but I think it is blue) and I cannot see what lies between the ripples in the foreground and the chip barges at the top (but I think it is blue too). The problem with this vision is that I cannot paint it!

So - I have taken a different approach. I am working on trying to see patterns and colours in the wide of expanse of water in the photo. There isn't much. Just the slightest hint of ripples and reflections of the clouds in the sky. I'm trying to exaggerate what there is to make it interesting. What is turning out has very little in common with my vision.

I worked quite hard on it for a couple of hours this afternoon and completely changed the water from the nice purple look with white unpainted canvas that I started with - to something blue, green and pale yellow. I think it is OK and wonder what will happen next. I can't upload a picture of it because my the batteries in my lovely Nikon D90 camera have run out. I think this is because I left the camera plugged in overnight after my last download. So - I am charging the batteries and happy to have overcome this small technology challenge.

I had another technology disaster today. I left my Samsung Android phone in my coat pocket when I put in the wash after walking in the driving rain yesterday. Then Mike my coat in the dryer - phone and all. So the phone is dead - finished - gone. It absolutely will not work. This is a little ironic since I have not been using my phone much lately and had made a specific effort to put it in my pocket and take it on the walk. But - then out of habit - I forgot it was there. Am I loosing my memory? Probably not. I think I've always had a habit of forgetting things like that.

The best Rogers will do is let me buy another Android - this one made by Dell - for $150. It is bigger than my Samsung - but possibly easier to read and less likely to get forgotten in a pocket. Well, less likely to actually fit in a pocket. Otherwise, I could buy out the rest of my contract at $25 per month - more or less the same price as I was paying for my phone - and have nothing; get a nasty little phone with no internet connections for free; get an Samsung replacement which would simply extend my contract and cost $315; or get a Blackberry with little old-fashioned buttons. So I chose the Dell Android. I feel a bit wasteful. Buying the Dell Android is not a huge expense - but I hardly ever use my phone - which is why I had the problem in the first place. It's going to take about a week to come. In the meantime I have my tablet which is a little on the large size - but is also basically an Android. I definitely cannot fit my table in my pocket.

While I was dealing with my ruined phone, I went to the Nanaimo Art Gallery - just in case I had got some kind of recognition at the Elders Show. I hadn't. That actually made me a little sad. I don't know which elder painting was given first prize - but the acrylic painting of a night street scene with lots of purple and yellow in it got a first prize in some category. I think it is a very good painting or - in other words - I wish I had painted it. I thought my 2 trollers looked quite good - very bold in a sweet sort of way. The way they were hung was not so good. They are not a pair so I understand why they weren't put together. But they are completely different from everything else in the show so look a bit odd being separated in the middle of everything else. - am still happy with them and will not try to "fix" them when I get them home at the end of the month.

Painting - I think I read yesterday that Degas said that every painting is a torture. I think he was right.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Swi-a-lana - day 4

Another couple of hours of painting on a very wet and windy day. In fact, so windy that the ferries to the mainland have been cancelled all day! We went for a walk on the beach in the morning - the rain was flying sideways and the waves were thundering in and tearing up the beach.

What did I do to my painting? What I always do a this point I guess, I fixed the drawing. The problems were that the cherry trees on the left side of the picture were way to short and the middle lamp was in the the wrong spot. This ruined both the perspective and the pattern of converging lines in the picture. I sort of fixed both things and added a bit more substance to the building at the right side of the painting. I can see in the photo that the "clouds" in the sky are wrong and look like a pair of reading glasses reflecting the sun. I will eventually change this too. But not today - since the paint has turned quite sticky. It is neither wet nor dry - just sticky. Time to leave it for a couple of days and do some serious looking for impressionists who painted cherry trees in the fall.

After I had made the changes, Mike and I went up to Michael's to get me some new paint brushes. I had come to the conclusion that I can't just use large brushes in this painting and my one small flat brush is wearing away. I'm glad we have a Michael's in Nanaimo - as it is possible to buy painting stuff here even on Sunday. But I truly dislike their dated coupon process. They try to make you go to their store on days when you don't want to go. Presumably you will then buy something you don't actually want and they will make more money. Today they were supposedly having a 25% off sale - but it ended at 1 pm. Plus, the coupon I got for signing up on line expired 2 days ago - so it wasn't honoured either. On top of that, the 30x40 canvases at Michael's are $78 compared to $48 for identical ones I bought at Opus in Victoria - more than 60% more expensive. So - even if I had got a discount, canvases would still have cost more. I'm glad I only needed paint brushes. Also, they don't bother to keep up their stock and have no system for ordering something that you request. A pretty dismal store if you ask me.

So - am I grumpy? Yes. A bit.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Swi-a-lana Fall

Here is my Swi-a-lana Park in the Fall painting after 3 days of work.

I was sure I had taken a photo after the second day - but apparently not. The difference between the 2nd day and 3rd day is that I had a very strong dark line representing the dark trees in the distance running right across the painting, the fallen leaves under the trees were just a solid pink., there were no leaves on pathway, the benches weren't yet roughed in, the plant by the water was not started, the trunks of the trees were much darker, the leaves on the cherries were more lumpy and the lamp posts were not as defined.

I do believe I made some progress today - though it is still far from done. The leaves on the ornamental cherries are quite distinctive and they hang down along the branches. Painting leaves is not my forte. I have been looking at art books to get ideas of how other artists paint them - Emily Carr doesn't do many deciduous trees, Van Gogh uses a lot of swirly lines, Tom Thompson just does blobs and Georgia O'Keefe blends everything in a smooth lump. So - no answers from great artists yet.

I have been using quite large brushes - at least 1/2 inch wide - maybe 3/4. I have enough brushes of that size that I have been able to one brush for each main colour, pale blue, yellow, pink and orangey-red, blackish-blue-brown, and light green. All my colours are made from my usual few tubes of paint - plus burnt sienna and very gorgeous orange. However, most of my tubes of paint are new - and I found that my new cerulean is not at all like my old cerulean - much less greeny and not nearly as lovely a colour in my opinion. I think I will have to put in some detail with smaller brushes - but don't want to get too careful.

Yesterday I bought 3 big canvases (30x40) while we were in Victoria. So now I have enough paint and canvas to do 5 quite large paintings. This is both exciting and daunting. When I go to bed after painting I see hundreds of wonderful paintings flash before my eyes but they don't stay long enough to remember them. So I can't figure out how to actually paint them. I think the next one be a night scene - the ferry terminal lights or something like that.

Oh yes, I have not heard how the Winter Show Case went. I am assuming that I didn't make an impression on the judges with my troller paintings. I would like to understand what criteria are used to judge the paintings - since I think my boats were pretty cool. suppose I should look up the NAC website to see if there is anything there about it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

G Dock and Bastion

Tonight I finished my first painting of 2012. Mind you, I started it in the middle of 2011 - but I finished it tonight - so it's a 2012 painting. I think it looks pretty good - not completely realistic but a recognizable picture of the Boat Basin and the Bastion.

I eliminated the cars, dinghy and people on the walkway and only show one rather odd boat on G Dock. The Coast Bastion Hotel is on the left and the Dorchester Hotel is on the right. The big flag pole with its white steps are a waterfront feature which takes pedestrians from the walkway by the docks up to street level where the Bastion is now located.

The design is really a series of horizontal, vertical and zigzag lines - so it is satisfying for those who like tidy shapes and a strong horizon. I think it is basically good composition. It wasn't too hard to paint - except for the leafless oak tree which is behind the parkade - one of the few curvey things among all the straight lines. Otherwise it was more or less fill in the spaces and put in lots of highlights and dark bits.

I think a painting of the Bastion in its modern day setting is pretty well mandatory for a series of paintings on Nanaimo. It was a Hudson Bay Fort in the 19th century and now is an important Nanaimo icon. It is also quite a neat object with a nice simple and distinctive shape.

Talking of icons, maybe I now need to find a scenic bar somewhere downtown and paint a "Nanaimo Bar" - since that is what people usually associate Nanaimo with. Actually I might do that tomorrow if we go singing downtown, Since it is quite snowy right now - I might even get a snow picture.

Now that I don't volunteer at the NAC Gallery any more, I have now where to display it. Maybe I'll take a really good photo of it and send it to the Tourism Nanaimo website - since they are asking for photos.

Swi-a-lana and Chip Barges - new approach

I am starting out on two new paintings. The top one is my initial sketch of Swi-a-lana Lagoon in the fall when the leaves have turned yellow and red.

The next one is Chip Barges out in the Strait of Georgia - heading for Harmac Mill.

Both pictures are from photos I took and both paintings are 30"x40" - so bigger than anything I
did last year. I think that the only way i am going to get away from the tightness that crept in to my recent paintings is to paint on a good big canvas and use good big branches - like I used to when I lived in the Cowichan Valley. I think I have made a good start and hope I can do this - big canvases, big brushes, big tubes of paint - and a whole lot less fussing. After all - a painting is not meant to be a photograph - but an impression.

To try to keep me in this frame of mind, I have copies of 2 painting by Van Gogh sitting nearby to remind how he did it.

By the way, I recently saw a program on Knowledge that said Van Gogh probably did not commit suicide. Life was going well for him and he was not disturbed. It now appears that he may have been shot by a couple of kids out hunting rabbits. He didn't turn them in and - because medicine was so much less advanced than it is nowadays - he died of his wounds.

Either way - his paintings are miracles and I sure would like to be able to paint a bit more the way he did. (Sorry Emily - I love your style and appreciate how you interpreted our forbidding and broken West Coast forests - but Van Gogh is inspiring me now.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

G Dock and Bastion

I started this painting of G Dock and the Bastion back last June. Then we went off on a trip to the Yellowknife and another trip to India and I qworked on the NPS website. Painting ground to halt until recently. this was the original sketch. A pretty complicated painting - but lots of promise.

The next stage with the sky filled in.

The next stage with the problem of the dock with the blue railings worked out. It actually sticks out from the walkway and there is only one tree behind the parkade. More coming soon!

April Maple History

I am trying to do a history of the Big Leaf Maple as well, but now Blogger won't upload any more image so I only have 2. This is the next to last version with a nice orange glow in the background and a lot of stumps and branches.

Here is the final version now hanging in the spare room beside the path to Ammonite Falls. I got rid of the stumps and put in some more purple and some more white contrasting highlights on the dead braches. It is actually more painterly than appears in the photo. Done!

Ammonite Falls History

I have worked on my painting of the path to Ammonite Falls through the VIU forestland for almost a year! It is quite possible that I either should have stopped sooner or am still not finished. I actually put it in 2 shows at the Nanaimo Arts Council Gallery. I think I thought that because it did not win a prize or mention of any sort it wasn't a good picture.

This was the original photo taken on a cold fall day in 2010
Here is the first quick sketch. I like it.

Here I have added some colours. Notice how nice a free it is. I like the little trees and the mauve haze - but it is not done.

Much further along - but no focal point.

The focal point seems to be the little trees. I like this because it still seems free and loose.

Aha -I decided to have a glow in the forest. The pink glow is a reverse image of the now larger little trees. It doesn't really work. The arbutus the right is bad.

The road is narrower, the glow is emphasized, and the grass along the edge of the road is more muted. Or maybe the photo just makes it look different. Nooo.

Away with the pink glow. Everything is mauve, white and green now. The arbutus is still bad and the picture is getting tight.

The road has been changed. There was another stage when I had all sorts of dead twigs sticking across the road from the arbutus.

The little trees and the twigs are gone. The road has a bit of a turn and seems to go over a hill.
Everything has been highlighted with white paint and there are more dark patches. Contrast is always a challenge for me. In the photo it almost looks like moonlight or snow. It is darker in reality. The arbutus is a lot better. I think I'm getting the hang of arbutus leaves.

I learned a lot from working on this painting. I'm really not going to work on it any more. Time to let it hang in the spare room

Friday, January 13, 2012

Troller paintings

Here is the painting I call "Gulf Troller 1." I finally finished it in December 2011. It was a struggle to get the shape of the boat looking right and the sky took ages. I know our skies on Vancouver Island often are covered by bands of cloud and I wanted to show that - but in a way that was both real and imaginary. I think the boat looks sort of stuck in the water because of the way I painted the bow wake and stern wake - but right now I think that is OK. I really like the islands which took no effort at all.

Here is the painting I call "Gulf Troller 2." Although this is actually the same boat as the one I painted in Gulf Troller 1, I think it looks quite different. They don't make a pair because they don't go together. I think this one looks fresher and I like the Harmac plume in the sky, the light behind the treetops and the sparkling water.

I put both these paintings in the Nanaimo Arts Council January 2012 Intergenerational Show. I have no idea whether they are "good" or whether people will like them or not. Maybe they are too sweet and maybe they are delightfully whimsical. Right now I like them and think they fit into my Nanaimo theme.