I am pleased to say that a collection of seven of my recent expressive wildflower paintings will be on display as part of “Art on the Wall” an initiative for members at Leighton Art Centre. Work will be on exhibition beginning tomorrow and continuing through August 17, 2021. See them in person if you are in the Foothills area or online through https://shop.leightoncentre.org/collections/all
Heads up that also at the Leighton Art Centre, the G9 (Group of Nine) exhibition “What a Difference a Day Makes” continues until July 25. This exhibit was presented in the Okotoks Art Gallery earlier this year but due to Covid 19 restrictions the gallery was not open to the public. I am looking forward to my first peek tomorrow.
A note about my expressive Canadian wildflower series. . . I have been painting and drawing wildflowers most of my life–on fabric in transparent acrylic wash, on paper as pen & wash, in pencil, sometimes pastel and as simple, traditional watercolours. It is not surprising that they feature as points of departure for painterly abandon in this latest series of mixed media oil paintings. I was attending Red Deer College Summer Series last week in an Open Studies workshop lead by Jean Pederson. I had a chance to focus solely on ideas for new work in the series. It was a fun and productive time. Such a pleasure to interact again with human beings in physical space. I will upload images of that new work soon to my Expressive Wildflower gallery https://bevmazurick.com/portfolio/paintings/nggallery/landscape-portfolio/expressive-wildflowers
I have painted representational wildflowers most of my life, usually delicately rendered in transparent acrylic or watercolour—often on fabric, later sewn as fine craft. This Spring I chose wildflowers as subjects for an entirely new series of heavily textured, highly expressive, mixed media oil paintings. These explosions of colour and texture are fun to create and likely a reaction to this artist’s pandemic stress. Several of them are now for sale at the Crowsnest Pass Gallery gift shop. Crowsnest Pass Gallery, if you are not familiar with it is located on Highway 3 in Frank, Alberta, just a klik or two west of Frank Slide Interpretive Centre. It is a lovely gallery space and one of the public galleries that hosted my first solo exhibition while it was on tour. Here is a link to their website. https://www.crowsnestpasspublicartgallery.com/
Species at Risk is the title of an ongoing, new series of art cards I have been creating this Spring. The purpose is to raise awareness of the environmental impact of open-pit coal mining in the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains. I am donating all proceeds from sale of these cards, except for my cost of printing and gallery commissions, to Alberta Wilderness Association https://albertawilderness.ca/ AWA is a federally registered Canadian charitable organization and one of the groups lobbying so hard to protect the Eastern Slopes.
Watercolours in the series are painted specifically for reproduction as art cards. Species at Risk cards are 5 x 7” with envelopes, professionally printed on linen-finish card stock. The back of each card carries a brief narrative about the subject. Cards are priced at $6.00 each and are individually packaged in cellophane sleeves.
In addition to buying cards directly from me, I am arranging with gallery shops in southern Alberta to carry them. Species at Risk cards should be available shortly at Crowsnest Pass Gallery, Lebel Mansion gift shop in Pincher Creek, Gust Gallery in Waterton National Park, Leighton Art Centre near Calgary and AAC Works gift shop in Lethbridge. If you wish to purchase cards from me directly, please email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Species at Risk as a personal art project developed after an initial conversation with Dr. Ian Urquhart of AWA in January. Open-pit, strip mining or mountain-top removal mining is on a truly massive scale. If you have ever driven toward Butte, Montana you will see the degree of devastation that we may be facing soon.
Working on this series has given me a sincere appreciation for the dedication of individual biologists, environmental scientists and the various other individuals and groups advocating for protection of our mountains and water. I am also thankful to the photographers who have allowed me to use their images as references.
Iconic mountain trees and my first subjects are the high elevation pine trees Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis) and Whitebark Pine (Pinus albicaulis). They are extremely long-lived and slow growing. Both are listed as endangered species federally and provincially. These tree species do not become mature or cone-bearing for 40 and 50 years respectively. Some of them may live for more than 1,000 years
The Grassy Mountain Coal Project is an open-pit, steelmaking coal mining project proposed in the Crowsnest Pass area of the Eastern Slopes. Approximately 21,000 Whitebark Pine will be removed for this project alone and it is only the first of similar mining projects proposed in the Crowsnest Pass region. Although Grassy Mountain project approval requires that the company ameliorate loss by re-planting, the natural, high elevation habitat will be gone.
Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus) and Westslope Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi) are listed species, classified as “threatened” federally and provincially. Both are native to tributary streams in headwaters of the Oldman and Bow River systems in southern Alberta. There are various risk factors but of looming concern is the effect of open-pit coal mining on habitat.
Water quality and quantity are both at issue. We do not know what percentage of the average annual flow of water in tributary streams will be diverted to feed coal mining activities such as Grassy Mountain, Tent Mountain and other open-pit mining projects proposed in the Crowsnest Pass. These native fish need cold, clear water. Increased sedimentation and the seemingly inescapable leaching of selenium are both harmful consequences of coal mining. Selenium is known to be toxic to fish. There is apparently no effective technology to prevent or remove selenium from the water.
Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos) is another iconic symbol of our wilderness and is designated as being a species at risk both federally in Canada and provincially in Alberta. Quoting from an article published by Alberta Wilderness Association on their website: “The future survival and recovery of Alberta’s grizzly bears depends on the protection and recovery of the landscapes that they rely on.” Disruption of their range, degradation and further fragmentation of natural grizzly bear habitat following from proposed open-pit coal mining in the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains will undoubtedly put further pressure on grizzly bear recovery efforts.
A pleasure for sure to share news of the new exhibition of figurative work by my artist friend and mentor Jean Pederson. Jean Pederson and Cindy Bouwers exhibition titled, Of a Certain Age, will be featured at Leighton Art Centre from March 12 to April 17. Leighton Art Centre is an extraordinary rural venue in the foothills just outside of Calgary. Although in person viewing is prohibited now due to Covid-19 restrictions, we are all hopeful the gallery will be open for in-person viewing later this month. In the meantime we have the opportunity to check out Of A Certain Age online through Leighton Art Centre website. https://leightoncentre.org/event/of-a-certain-age/
I had an opportunity to hear from Jean Pederson recently about some of the new mixed media photo manipulation processes she has been using to develop work for Of A Certain Age and I am anxious to see it. My introduction to Jean as an artist happened when I bought one of her art books years ago. I was tired of “same old, same old” and found her attitude toward contemporary painting revitalizing. When the opportunity arose about five years ago I joined one of her mentorship classes in Calgary. I would recommend the experience to anyone.
Although I have never met Cindy Bouwers, I have recently viewed some of her work online and you should too. I was particularly struck by some of her winter landscapes–presumably those from another recent exhibition at Leighton Art Centre. I was impressed by the eloquence in her portrayal of winter stillness and beauty we see in our prairie landscape. You may check out this work too at https://www.cindybouwers.com/
These are two highly accomplished artists we are fortunate to see in southern Alberta.
The paintings and personal images created for this exhibition mirror what Jean and Cindy have gained by reaching “a certain age”. They have richness and depth, complexity, layers, and consider both the dark and the light. Some of the materials and processes incorporated are new for the artists — a homage to their continued personal growth. Many of life’s lessons — letting go, shifting expectations, enduring difficulty, being vulnerable, valuing authenticity, overcoming fears, and laughing much are reflected in the work.
An cxcerpt from Leighton Art Centre’s description of Of A Certain Age
This will be my first true “process” post. Normally at this time of year I am busy creating Original Art Handpainted on Fabric. This is one aspect of studio work and I have been doing it for a long time. I create up to 100 pieces annually that go into a few gallery shops for the summer and later for some winter season sales. I like to participate in crafts markets occasionally too because this is an opportunity to meet people who admire my work and buy my products. Thinking about new product ideas to showcase different forms of wildlife is an exciting aspect for me. This week I am mulling over the idea of terry cloth headbands as a new medium well suited to showcase wildflowers. My fabric work is unusual because it combines my deep love of wilderness and desire to share it with a quirky philosophy that says: original art should be a practical part of everyday life.
To process! There are myriad ways to be creative with paint on fabric. This is just my approach. The finished product characteristics I was looking for were durability and suppleness. Most of my fabric art is designed to be used every day so most are fully machine washable and dryable.
The fabric ground
I paint on a finely woven cotton. You can certainly use other fabric but I do not. I tried linen and wasn’t happy with the result. I have painted successfully on cotton canvas. Just remember, the finer the weave the finer the detail in your painting.
I pre-wash fabric before using to remove any sizing. Fabric should be as smooth as a baby’s bottom if you want a fine painting so iron it wet from the washing machine. To make it easier to handle, I rip the fabric roughly to sizes I plan to use before ironing. I rip rather than cut to ensure the fabric remains true to square for sewing easily.
Painting supplies and set up
This is not fabric dye. I use artist quality heavy body acrylic tube paint. I have also used acrylic inks on more expressive or abstract cushion covers where I want more intense but still fluid colour. I have even used puff paint on a couple of cushions.
My brushes are a variety of short-handled synthetic bristle brushes. Brushes seem to wear more quickly painting on fabric than they do on paper so I keep a good supply on hand. Plain water and fabric medium are the other basics for fabric painting. I use a squirt bottle of water to keep paint on the palettes wet. I also have a few scraps of fabric at the ready for testing colour mixtures.
Since I paint on fabric a lot, I use two palettes. One is reserved just for unmixed tube paint and the other used to create mixtures of paint, medium & water. My palettes have tight-fitting lids. Kept wet, unmixed tube paint will remain viable for up to a week. The mixtures palette, I clean after each painting session. In the photo of mixtures you will see the individual wells with graduations of colour I prepare in advance. In this case for the robin’s wing I premixed five shades of greyish-browns as well as several reddish body colours. You may notice the white dots of unmixed fabric medium in one of the red colour wells.
Fabric medium fulfills two purposes. It controls the flow or bleeding of paint into the fabric. This gives you greater edge control. The higher the proportion of fabric medium in a paint colour, the more viscous it becomes. Especially important for me, fabric medium is a binding agent so that even extremely light washes will be permanent. Any medium dilutes colour so it will become more transparent. Where I want strong, opaque colour I use little or no medium and just enough water for the paint to become fully fluid. I want the paint to be absorbed by the fibre rather than forming a paint layer or film on the surface of the material. The only way to learn what proportion of paint, medium and water work best for you is to play with it.
The studio setup for fabric painting shows the two palettes and the felt pad on my drafting table. Note the wet sponge I keep in the palette reserved for unmixed tube paint. There is the usual assortment of brushes, studio tools and supplies which I use regularly in fabric work.
Painting and finishing
My painting style is similar to watercolour on paper. I build layers of washes, some wet-in-wet, generally working from pale to build more intense colour. I am very conscious of the ratio of water to paint. I add just enough fabric medium to control flow as I need it and to act as a binding agent in pale washes. Generally I will mix several intensities or variations of colour before I begin painting so I have some options at the ready.
Take a deep breath and paint. Draw sparingly. You cannot successfully erase without roughing the surface of the fabric. Even though most of my work is akin to botanical or zoological illustration and needs to be precise, I draw as little as possible. Sometimes I will simply use pencil dots as general indicators. I suppose a person could use tailor’s chalk which should wash out of the fabric but I haven’t tried.
Allow the work to dry thoroughly. I use masking tape and put it on the wall in my studio. Although the acrylic paint is permanent once dry, I heat set my work with an ordinary household iron using high heat and steam.
A report prepared for National Defence, by CRG Consulting in 2013, notes that many buildings dating from the British Imperial Era generally “feature projections such as parapets or end walls, chimneys, pilasters and brick corbelling. . . .a number of buildings still retain their original eaves troughs with decorative conductor heads and rainwater leaders.” It was undoubtedly these architectural features which captured my attention as I wandered through the dockyard’s haphazard medley of historic buildings years ago with my camera. The photos were mislaid for more than two decades. I found them again and began developing these paintings in 2018. The evolving group are an interesting mix–a juxtaposition of the visual coloratura inherent in nineteenth century architecture with reflections of the undercurrent of conflicting emotion arising in a non-serving voyeur. This duality of perspective is perhaps most evident in Stop/Arret.
Symbolic use of various design elements is evident in many of my paintings. In “Stop/Arret” I have used an overall red masking colour to instill a sense of unease. Ominous red coupled with transparent layering of architectural elements suggests the multi-faceted response dockyard scenes often evoked in me.
This is an interesting studio shot for a host of reasons. Next to the easel and re-purposed for studio use is an old hospital table. It works perfectly at either the drafting table or my easel. I even use the hospital table as a stable platform for a camera when I don’t feel like setting up a tripod for studio photography. The height is adjustable—it is on casters and has an open arm design which means I can have it close to any work area. Another interesting accoutrement is a stack of wet panel boxes my woodworker husband Don Mazurick made. Seen here in use in the upper left, the panel boxes are modular, stackable and portable. Each panel box holds four paintings nicely separated so there is adequate air circulation. I generally have as many as six oil paintings in progress so these panel boxes are awesome in my studio. In the studio when I paint with oil my approach generally involves building layers of texture and transparent colour before doing opaque, scumbled or maybe more textured layers. It is a slow process. Pictured on the easel is an as yet untitled painting in progress. In this case the painting is from my CFB Esquimalt dockyard series and has just received its second transparent layer. If you are curious about the small metal cups upturned on the palette these are simply restaurant supply cups I use to cover blobs of paint when I don’t feel like cleaning the glass palette between sessions.
New exhibitions opened throughout Casa on November 7, 2020 among them is a solo exhibition of my landscape paintings in the “Passage” gallery space. This presentation of landscape includes: traditional framed plein air paintings in oil; small, landscape-themed abstract colour studies, also in oil, and four contemporary, mixed-media studio landscapes. Exhibitions continue until December 21st. Casa is located in downtown Lethbridge and is open from 9 am to 10 pm Monday – Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm.
Viewpoints are an ongoing series of studio paintings unified by their focus on human-made landscape subjects which are geometric or architectural rather than organic. It seems that we attach far less aesthetic value to industrial sites or old alleys than we do natural places. Landscapes are something I enjoy painting and do paint regularly, developed either in the studio as contemporary mixed media work, or painted alla prima outdoors. Non-traditional landscape subjects also have grace and stories inherent in them just as worthy of artistic exploration.
I have been working on Viewpoints for several years now in tandem with other studio work. In terms of pure design aesthetics, graphic shapes and forms are a compelling point of departure in developing an interesting composition. Some are highly expressive or abstracted, others purely representational. Viewpoints often present drawing challenges but have also presented opportunities to explore different approaches to painting with oil.
Catwalk Salon is one of my favourite plein air street scenes. I painted it during Art Days several years ago. The act of standing on a street corner each afternoon creating art became my way of connecting with the spirit of Alberta Culture celebrations and usually signalled the end of my plein air painting sessions for the year. Fall colour is at its most splendid so it can be a magical time for painters. Although not entirely because of the Coronavirus pandemic, I opted out of plein air painting entirely this year and I miss it.
I may not have been out painting this year but my artistic focus sure has been on plein air in recent weeks because of my involvement in two exhibitions. A juried group exhibition of plein air paintings is ongoing at Leighton Art Centre until October 31, 2020. (Details about the Leighton Art Centre exhibition were noted in the preceding blog post.) I am also preparing for an upcoming solo exhibition of landscapes at Casa. The Passages gallery exhibition at Casa in Lethbridge is coming up in early November. At Casa I will be exhibiting plein air landscapes together with small, abstracted, landscape-themed colour studies. Probably four of my recent expressive landscapes executed in mixed media oil will also be shown. Details about that exhibition will be in a future post.
A final shout-out here about Mortar and Brick’s exhibition which opened last night in Lethbridge. I made a point of seeing the work yesterday afternoon. If you have an interest in contemporary art, do make time to see the work on display there now. It is well-worth your time. One haunting painting in particular, by local artist Eileen Murray, captured my attention.