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.
At Dinosaur Park this June with Sagebrush Arts Society, I just had time for a few watercolour sketches. Curiously shaped hoodoos and colour in the sandstone, ironstone and mudstone layers of the badlands are visually compelling. During August I paint with an ad hoc group of artists from all over the province. Although the week-long plein air retreat was established decades ago by members of the Alberta Society of Artists, it is open to anyone so please feel free to contact me if you are interested. The region chosen this year was southwest of Calgary in the Turner Valley area. Our time was largely frustrated by rainy weather. The image here is an oil I completed by the side of a road near Millarville. A storm was moving in from the Rockies. I am heading into the Castle wilderness area soon for a few more days of painting outdoors and late September should see me painting outdoors again somewhere in downtown Lethbridge to celebrate Alberta Culture Days.
An alternate title for this blog post might be “painting on the rainy west coast”. This atmospheric oil study looking toward Meares Island from Tofino was one of two I painted recently on Vancouver Island. Compelling for me was the subdued colour and haunting softness of edges found in the morning’s light rain and heavy cloud. I wanted to capture this sensibility quickly, before the light changed. This quick plein air was completed in under an hour using just a palette knife. Initially I wanted to include some of the foreground harbour boats but ultimately decided to leave the detail for a studio work-up. Having lived on Vancouver Island, I knew that rainy weather was likely to be an issue. Fortunately I did capture many evocative photographs from Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and surrounding regions such as along the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet. So, although I painted very little, I consider the trip a success because I have lots of new, inspiring material for studio work – some likely destined for the Federation of Canadian Artists gallery in Vancouver.