22 June 2014

and again!

I have been doing other things besides plein air painting these last few weeks, but not documenting that work yet, so here we go: another plein air blog post.

Today we went out past Okotoks, sorta near the junction of hwy 549 and rr 338, just above the Sheep River valley.  Beautiful spot, filled with the type of Alberta prairie stuff I love - lots of long wild grasses and flowers of all sorts, very meadow-y and beautiful, a bit damp yet, but much to our surprise no mosquitoes!  After all that rain!  Lucky us.

steel sky woman
the view

steel sky woman
the preliminary sketch
Dirty camera lens, heh.  Still, good for field shots  :)

steel sky woman
the palette
In addition to these colours I used raw sienna and cadmium green, finding I needed to warm things up a bit mid-way through.  Around 7pm things go a bit more gold...

steel sky woman
the almost-completed work
I wound up altering this one a wee bit after we got home.

steel sky woman
before, in the field
Above, what it looked like when we packed up to go.  
Below, what it looks like now: 

steel sky woman
after, on the back deck
The main change I made was to the top edge of the trees at left, and a bit of the hillside beyond.  I also brightened those dabs of blue in the foreground - a slough with just a bit of water showing through the long, darker grasses.

It's not often I change a painting after leaving the field, and I can only really do it with any degree of authenticity immediately we arrive home, while my memory of the place is very fresh.

That last one I quite like.  Sometimes the old camera gets the focus bang-on.

16 June 2014

number 86

On Saturday I found myself on the banks of the Red Deer river with my painting outfit.  There was a steep, crumbly bank to the left (not shown in these photos) and lots of trees and rocks and rushing waters.  Again, very difficult things to paint well!  But looking down the river one could get a bit of distance...

steel sky woman
closest zoom possible

steel sky woman
cropped to this

So I was focussed on this tiny slice of a view far down the river, and here's what that view inspired:

verna vogel landscape #86
Alberta Landscape #74
oil on canvas, 10x10 inches

verna vogel
initial blocking in

verna vogel plein-air palette
limited palette + white
I have been thinking a lot about my other work, the multiples series I've been engaged in since January, and other abstract explorations.  Had a really great conversation with Ross Melanson this morning via skype, in which we discussed all sorts of philosophical ideas and how they relate to our respective art processes.  Ross makes conceptual art in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

My multiples are all about the many-sided view.  Our peripheral vision conveys more information, from more directions and through more avenues, than a focussed gaze ever could.  This is an idea which I come back to again and again in my work.

So it's interesting to me that I go out and paint these plein air landscapes, because it would seem that what I am doing is looking with a very specific focus, and attempting to depict in paint the thing that I am looking at.  

Why?  I ask myself.  Is this practice not the antithesis of all my studio exploration?  Well, yes....  ah, but no: 

I never paint landscapes from a photo, working in my studio*.  After conversing with Ross this morning, it has occurred to me that the appeal of plein-air painting is that when one sits on location to paint, a lot of peripheral information about the landscape invariably gets in, one way or another.

To paint a landscape from a photo would be the true antithesis of what I do in my studio, because a photo necessarily cuts out peripheral information.  In fact, this very aspect of photography is the basis of a debate around ideas of "truth" in photos.  Ah-ha!

Ross talked a bit about how, even when an artist makes a seemingly abrupt shift in style or subject, there is invariably a continuity in their work.  

Well, I believe I have just discovered some continuity between plein-air paintings and studio practice: the importance of peripheral information which permeates everything I do.

Thank you Ross!  :)

* A few months ago I made a landscape painting which was basically an enlargement of a plein-air work.  It was commissioned by my parents-in-law, and was definitely one of the more difficult things I've attempted to do in the studio - not so much due to the expectations of family, but rather due to the lack of information I had to go on, as my own plein-air work leaves a lot out!  The completed painting looks well in their home, but for me does not catch the essence of the landscape depicted.

And here is a lovely snippet of the Sheep river from last week:

verna vogel seeing

Something about the shape of that brush, against that rock, in that water...

02 June 2014

nearing 100

This weekend I painted on the banks of the Sheep River.  Here's the first one:

steel sky woman landscape

The sky was very moody when I began and then cleared up by the time I'd finished.  Oh those Alberta skies, where storms pass over the horizon without lingering!  Water tumbling over rocks is still very difficult for me to paint well, but I am determined to keep at it and improve.

Next day I tried again:

the view

verna vogel
the sketch

verna vogel
the completed painting

I like that second one better, though I still have in my mind's eye an image of landscape painting that I rarely come close to, ha.  Well, I would set the bar very high and then work towards it.

verna vogel
sand, an excellent brush holder

verna vogel
my perch 6 feet above the river

I am nearing 100 plein air paintings.  When I began doing this I did not intend it to become such a regular part of my practice.  Isn't it funny how things go?