30 October 2013

learning things

painting with mixed media

I recently took a weekend-long acrylic workshop with artist Lori Lukasewich.  She is an excellent artist who has explored many interesting ideas in her work, and we have shown at the same gallery for a few years but I've only talked with her briefly a couple of times before now.  It was great to get to know her better this weekend.
It was a kind of beginner's workshop, seeming theoretically beneath my level - but in reality nothing is "beneath my level".  One can learn a lot from any experience by keeping an open mind, and I really needed to get back to some basics.  Being with other artists all learning something new together was very invigorating!

painting with mixed media
acrylic paint and paper collage
on gesso'd watercolour paper
Lori is a wonderful teacher and facilitator, very knowledgeable about art materials.  She demonstrated various acrylic processes and techniques and then we all had fun experimenting, sometimes pushing things too far and making a mess of our work, haha!  At which point  Lori reminded us that pushing things too far is a vital step in the process of art-making: if you never push it too far, how will you know when to stop?  How will you go beyond making work that is safe and uninspired?  This is a very good point.  By pushing our boundaries and NOT playing it safe, at the end of the workshop each of us had made at least one piece that we were proud of, and a we all took away a lot of ideas and inspiration.

mixed media painting
acrylic paint, stencils, lace pieces
on gesso'd watercolour paper

I have definitely been feeling constrained and uninspired in the studio lately - in a word, safe.  Having committed to producing yet more urban paintings, I find I've tied myself up!  

One thing I really appreciated about Lori's workshop was when she talked about some of her early experiences as an artist, when she made intensely detailed paintings.  These paintings are very beautiful and accomplished, but eventually she cracked up over them, and this led to a deeper understanding of herself and her own creative process.  
Well I've been feeling bit cracked-up lately, my stitched urban paintings feeling tedious rather than joyful.  And really, what is the point of working that way?  I believe we are on this earth in order to experience joy, but sometimes we get lost.

acrylic painting
acrylic paint and paper collage
on cradled wood panel

Well then.  Starting this week I've just been painting what I like without pressuring myself for results.  To be sure, the promised urban paintings will be finished on time - but that time is not right now.  And lo and behold, by letting go of that pressure I've made some work I'm really pleased with!  Go figure huh.  

collage painting

The one at top left in the photo above was made during the workshop, my one beautiful piece that I am proud of.  It was an abstract painting that I'd begun but didn't know how to realize.  Lori taught me some techniques for paper collage, which I used on that unfinished painting to very good effect.  Then I went home and did some more collaging over some more half-finished abstract paintings.  Whee!  Feeling very good energy working this way. 

Besides renewing my creative freedom by taking Lori's workshop, I've been exploring the possibilities of stitched paper work.

paper works
first stitching

painting on paper
then painting
I'm quite excited about these little pieces.  They are kind of a melding of my previous abstract works and the album cover I made for the UAS fundraiser.   Life in the studio feels good again.  What fun!

abstract paintings

25 October 2013

album cover art

The very first studio I rented in this city was managed by the Untitled Art Society, an organization which is committed to providing affordable communal studio space for emerging artists.  Over the years, the UAS has grown and evolved into a registered non-profit society.  As well as the original studios located on the 4th floor of an old industrial building downtown, they now operate the "Satellite Gallery", a street-level exhibition space near the studio building.

The UAS recently did a call out to members who have shown at the Satellite Gallery, to create artwork using albums - ah, vinyl! - for a fundraising event.  I almost always create work for UAS's fundraisers because I think what they are doing is very important in the art community.

For this experiment, I used a record of Burl Ives singing "The Little White Duck and Other Children's Favourites".  I found the whole album on youtube and listened to it while working, which was an interesting cultural experience, ha.  Times have sure changed.

To make these pieces, first I carefully took apart the album cover to make two square pieces of cardboard.  I coated each piece with clear acrylic medium to seal it, then I stitched in some textured things.  I decided to cradle the stitched cardboard pieces before layering on the colour.  The final layer was clear medium with a tiny bit of gold paint, which created a really nice kind of old patina effect, but it doesn't show up in these photos unfortunately.

The front of the album cover shows Burl Ives with his guitar and a group of children.  Not so visually interesting for me, so I used the inside.  I gesso'd it before stitching.

burl ives

burl ives

burl ives

I wish I had taken a photo of the inside of this piece, with the cradling wood glued to the album cover image and the stitching running over Burl and the children.  The painted part looks precious with its hint of old gold - but on the inside there is a total disregard for the image and all it represents... or maybe it's more of a "stitching the new onto the old foundation" kind of thing.  

The back of the album had these interesting little images for advertising more albums, so I kept that in the work.

burl ives

burl ives

burl ives

One of the great benefits of creating work for fundraisers is that I try new things, change my process a bit, and sometimes I get really inspired by the work!

I just loved working with the cardboard album cover pieces.  They were easy to stitch through and the texture of the paper contrasted nicely with the texture of the bits of canvas I stitched onto them - a lovely combination of surfaces to paint on.  I think I will be doing some more paper/stitching experiments in the near future!

17 October 2013

vast and various

Been working with renewed focus these last couple of weeks.  Never mind what's going on in my head - just show up and get to work.  Age-old wisdom, that.

Several small paintings in progress.  Good to have various lighting options in the studio.

verna vogel paintings
warm spots

verna vogel paintings
full-spectrum florescents

verna vogel paintings
both sets of lights together
You know how it is when you're photographing the paintings and then you notice how beautiful the tools are...

verna vogel sewing machine

Below, working out an idea.  Got some old half-finished paintings which I'm not feeling very inspired with.  Don't want to chuck them, don't want to store them.  Hmmm, maybe re-imagine them?

verna vogel

verna vogel

And tonight a full moon.  Yeah.

verna vogel

14 October 2013


steel sky woman

steel sky woman

steel sky woman

There is so much to be grateful for...

My body which is strong and healthy and allows me to get out into nature.
Eyes that can see leaves falling at the slightest hint of a breeze, violet sky and yellow grasses, and the smell of the earth.
Hands that can hold a brush.
Glad heart and mind, able to perceive beauty, able to understand the wealth of existence.

And underneath, a current of love that flows among us, so that we all float together.


I've been struggling with the city paintings lately... the downtown is less and less a part of my daily life, and the urban hustle and bustle has sharply receded as a source of inspiration.  However there are some commitments I need to keep, and so I continue for a little while yet with the urban paintings.

A new urban-themed canvas underway:

verna vogel

verna vogel
using various techniques

verna vogel
not quite there yet...
And you know, the urban paintings are still fun to make at times - just I cannot make so many of them any more.  They are becoming fewer and further between.

To deal with this feeling of boredom with the urban stuff, this week I have worked on a few small abstract paintings.  The one at top right of the photo below was made in 2000.  All the others were made this week, and are mostly unfinished.

Living now much nearer the edge of the city and at the edge of a large park, I am getting more and more excited about natural landscapes rather than manufactured, urban landscapes.  So I'm gearing up for more plein air landscape painting, stretching and preparing small canvases:

After doing a count, I realized that I have made 78 (!!!) plein air paintings since early spring of 2011: 64 in Alberta, 5 in the Kananaskis, 5 in British Columbia, 4 in Brasil.  Wow, hey.  Obviously this is becoming more than a sideline.  

So far all my landscape paintings are very small, most of them 10x10 inches, a few slightly larger.  I have a plan.  When I get to 100 small ones, I will graduate to 16x16 inches.  :)

landscape painting by verna vogel
a calm morning beside the Thompson River, BC

landscape painting by verna vogel
shifting skies near Stettler, AB

landscape painting by verna vogel
a windy day along hwy 766, AB

11 October 2013


When we returned from our vacation, my husband helped to install the recent commissioned piece in the clients' home.  This is the combination they chose:

enrichment - verna vogel
One Thing Becomes Another
acrylic on stitched canvas
32w, 36w x 29.5h inches

And here is the work in its new environs:

enrichment - verna vogel

It is always so neat to see my work in a home where it becomes part of a larger aesthetic, beginning a new phase of its journey.  The work takes on a life of its own - very different from in my studio or in a gallery environment.  I am glad to know this piece is now part of a happy and dynamic family, where it may contribute in its own small way some enrichment to their lives.

04 October 2013


Our road trip has brought us full circle, back to home.

Ahhhhh, home... where the last of the garden harvests have been enjoyed - and some preserved for future enjoyment.  

This morning at 5am a frost rolled in, not unlike a coastal fog, creating a magic landscape.  Winter is coming!!!  O excitement: soon the world will be stark and beautiful, all lines and textures and shapes, and going for a simple walk will become a heightened adventure.

Winter is best enjoyed with the security of a warm place to come in to, and to that end I have (finally!) insulated my studio.  The freshly-painted white walls are lovely, calm and inspiring.

Also a few paintings have left the studio, creating physical and mental space.

Two more landscapes made during our travels:

verna vogel fine art
at the edge of a vineyard, Kelowna

verna vogel fine art
edge of a vineyard on a hill, Kelowna

And one made a few weeks ago, the day before we embarked on our trip:

verna vogel fine art
Bow river