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.
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.