27 January 2014

explanations and the plotting of trajectories

This week in between other work I've been playing with some abstract ideas.  It all began with an image of tree branches reflected in a bank of windows at dusk.  At the moment this work is more clumsy than elegant, and I've no clear idea where it's going, only just a glimmer of possibility:

steel sky woman abstract

verna vogel abstract

I've had some interesting conversations lately about things like whether an artist ought to explain their own work, or whether it is up to other people - exhibition curators for example - to put artists' work into context.  On the one hand I think an artist ought to be able to explain their own work... but then on the other hand I also think that explanations often obscure true meaning, that visual imagery IS the language, and when used well has no need for wordy augmentation.

Also I have been asked "Where do you see your work going?" which in my mind borders on the nonsensical.  Too much focus on destination, perhaps.  Certainly there are ideas I want to explore in my work, but where those ideas may lead...?  It seems presumptuous to attempt such predictions.

As it happens, lately I am surrounded my people for whom explanations and the plotting of trajectories seems to be a focus.  And I cannot really explain anything; the best I can do is to say that the images I create are the result of my taking in the world around me, holding and stirring, and spitting it back out, Verna-style.  That is my part, and the rest will take care of itself.

And I think that will do.


Edit - and then I thought of this article with David Quinn.

18 January 2014

fortunate life

This week I barely got into the studio at all.

I did get all my year-end bookkeeping finished, and I did update my inventory of work made in 2013, and I did do lots of other little niggly things of the sort that pile up until you can't ignore them anymore, like banking and grocery shopping and replacing the battery in my watch.  And I did ship out some paintings:

verna vogel plein air
7 landscapes shipped to AyrSpace Gallery
I am eagerly waiting for the landscapes to arrive and be unpacked, very curious what the response to them will be in real life compared to on a computer screen.

I also found a perfectly beautiful coat in a thrift shop, of a style I'd been on the lookout for for years, and which fits like it was made for me.  This is almost as exciting as making paintings.  :)

And yesterday I finally did get to make some paintings!  More skype portraits:

steel sky woman skype portraits
1st portrait: Ross Melanson
sharpie marker and acrylic ink on gesso'd paper
9x12 inches

verna vogel portrait of Chris Wikman
6th portrait: Chris Wikman
oil on gesso'd 300lb rag paper
11x15 inches

verna vogel portrait of Chris Wikman
7th portrait: Chris Wikman
sharpie marker and oil on gesso'd 300lb rag paper
11x15 inches

verna vogel portrait of Ross Melanson
2nd portrait: Ross Melanson
oil on gesso'd 300lb rag paper
12x13 inches

Chris Wikman is a full-time artist - here is Chris's website.
Ross Melanson is an artist and also works at the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery.
Here is Ross's website.

The skype session lasted 4 hours!  I have never had a skype session that intense, and it didn't feel like a long time.  We had some very interesting conversations, and I made 7 portraits in all.  

So it was a fantastic ending to a week filled with paperwork and mostly mundane errands.  I feel that I am very fortunate in my life.

11 January 2014

the old and the new

The old and the new are coming together lately.  Taking a few months off to make small explorations and not worry about producing anything for any of my galleries has had an interesting effect on my perspective.  

Here are a few things that are happening lately.

1.  At the end of 2013, AXIS Contemporary Art Gallery closed its doors for good.  Owner Rob Mabee and I had worked together since 2008.  My paintings were featured in two solo shows, one double-artist show and quite a few group shows in the gallery over the last 5 years.  

Rob Mabee and Verna Vogel
Artists and collectors alike will miss working with Rob at AXIS
verna vogel abstract paintings
I still like these small abstract works, returned from AXIS 

2.  After a two-year haitus, I have again taken up doing portraits via Skype.  Last week I connected with a mom and daughter duo and we had a blast!

Many more images here

3.  Again after a two-year haitus, I have begun revisiting the Snapshot series.  Stitching photo-prints together with canvas both raw and pre-painted makes for some very interesting juxtapositions.

verna vogel snapshots series
New "Snapshot" series underway, mostly unfinished as of yet

4.  Another exploration then laid aside mostly incomplete about a year ago.  I would like to revisit this idea, complete the pieces I started and continue with some new manifestations.  I think of them as the "Plane" works.  Here's an example of one of the finished pieces:

plane series by verna vogel
Aerial, acrylic on stitched canvas, 54w x 49h inches

5.  In November I took a workshop with Lori Lukasewich and it got the old abstract juices flowing.  Completely, totally 100% non-representational paintings is something I have not done since art school - 17 years ago!  After Lori's workshop I made some abstract explorations with acrylics, and it was great fun.  Now I have begun to try a bit of oil painting.  I'm doing this slowly and carefully, ever mindful of air quality and cleanliness in my home studio.

abstract series by verna vogel
re-painting of unfinished oil works

6.  And lastly but not leastly: I have taken the leap!  I will be sending 7 small landscape paintings to the AyrSpace Gallery in Ontario, just as soon as the touched-up edges are dry enough to ship.  I've been doing plein air paintings for about 3 years, and have never yet shown any of them, so this is a pretty big leap for me.

verna vogel with her plein air paintings
The works that Jill from AyrSpace got to choose from

Feels like I am going into 2014 with a lot of ideas...!  I need to make sure I work on just one "main" idea at a time so that I don't get confused and stretch myself too thin.   

OK.  I have begun this year with a focus on the photo-print "Snapshots" series, which I'm thinking will occupy me for at least a couple of months.  My vision is that I will focus on the Snapshots until they are almost finished.  At some point I will need to set them aside and work on something else - perhaps further developing my stitched abstract ideas, like the"Plane", the Skin or the Paperworks - and then going back to finish the Snapshots.  I think this kind of back-and-forth gives me a more complete view of my own work, and also helps me to see how all my ideas relate to one another.

In between I will surely make more plein-air paintings, simply because I love the outdoor meditation of observing the landscape around me.

I also hope to continue making Skype portraits from time to time, because I think it is a good way to keep in touch with other artists, especially if we are not geographically near one another.

I feel I've been off on tangents for the last couple of years - ever since I switched to acrylic paint and the home studio - and now I begin to see how all these things relate to one another.  This is very good!


04 January 2014

Ayrspace for landscapes

For a few years now I've been intermittently making small plein air landscapes.  I've made 78 of them.  69 are still around, some having been given as gifts and some destroyed.  Wow, 69 landscape paintings!

I've been saying to myself that I've got to start thinking about showing/selling them, since they are creeping through the house, high on the walls like decorative plates, and soon we will run out of space.

Lo and behold, just before the solstice I was contacted by Jill at Ayrspace Gallery.  She'd had a look at my website and liked the landscapes!  Her gallery online - and her outlook on life and art - are quite appealing to me.  After some discussion, she may be taking some of the landscapes to show in her gallery.  

So I've spent the last couple of days hauling them into the studio to really have a look at them, consider which ones may be good enough to show, which ones I'd like to keep, and which ones should maybe be destroyed.

verna vogel steel sky woman
There they are, piled up on my studio table.  

verna vogel steel sky woman
And there they are on the studio wall unedited: all 69 of them, bad and good together in no particular order.

Soon I will have a portfolio of available plein air works for Jill, and we will take it from there...

Funny how there is some emotional investment in this for me.  It's been awhile since I felt this way about my work - my urban paintings have been going out to galleries for awhile now, and I have learned for the most part to disassociate myself from them once they are gone.  But these little landscapes now, they are closer to my heart that I would've thought, even after a few years of making them.  Feels good.