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.
In The Open Air is the title of an upcoming exhibition hosted by Leighton Art Centre to honour the practice of painting outdoors or en plein air. As an avid plein air painter, I am delighted to see several of my paintings included in the exhibition. Among them, I painted Foothills Ranch Country, looking southwest alongside Highway 22, a few miles north of Lundbreck Falls.
Leighton Art Centre, which is located just southwest of Calgary, has several special events planned for the weekend of September 12 & 13 to celebrate their launch of In the Open Air and Alberta Culture Days. Check out the Leighton Art Centre website.
I was challenged by an artist-friend in the Calgary Chapter of the Federation of Canadian Artists to join other members in a daily painting challenge during January. The 32 small oils I completed last month are all to varying degrees, abstracted landscapes made with just a palette knife, using six premixed colours. A valuable colour exercise it proved to be – forcing me to think about colour relationships more deeply. If you paint or draw in colour, try this or a similar exercise to shake up your notions of colour.
I picked up designer paint chips from the local home improvement store. Each paint chip displayed three colours in combinations suggested by professional designers. I used two paint chips for each session. In other words, six colours. I premixed as closely as possible to match the paint chips and applied the six colours to describe landscapes – choosing a dominant, sub-dominant ranking down to accent colour notes. My rules were that I needed to use all six colour mixtures in each painting without tints, shades or blending. I allowed the white ground to show in some cases. However, as I continued it became more challenging to ignore white and explore direct relationships among the six colours. Since the designer colours rarely corresponded to a natural landscape I was also compelled to think more creatively and explore the gamut of colour characteristics. As seen below, it was also interesting to compare the difference made by my choice of which colours should dominate in cases where I painted two or more panels with the same colour mixtures. Some of the colour combinations proved to be unusual but quite lovely.
Donna Gallant is perhaps the most inherently creative artist I know. In her own words, “painting is as much about the process as it is the final product”. Donna’s generous nature in sharing new processes that excite her is well-known. She will be giving a demonstration of some of her mixed media approaches in Lethbridge next Saturday afternoon at the Allied Arts Council office/gift shop.
Donna Gallant’s mixed media art is both visually appealing and thought-provoking. Detail from, “But this is not all I can do”,a new work is pictured here. She may be reached directly by phone: 403.328.0536 or email: email@example.com
Mixed Media demo by Donna Gallant
Saturday, November 30, 2019 from noon to 4:00 pm Allied Arts Council Gift Shop/Offices 318 7 Street South, Lethbridge