geology and art

May 31, 2015

ACCORDING TO GEOLOGIC FINDINGS, Kamloops, B. C., has limestone which dates back 270 million years.  The earth itself is estimated to be some 4.5 billion years old.  So the rock and sediment of Kamloops is relatively young in comparison, which is due to it having once been part of the ancient Pacific Ocean floor.  Fossils in the area show ancient ocean plankton.

THE DOMINANT AND STRIKING, ANCIENT, WORN-DOWN MOUNTAINS within City Limits are the remains of ancient volcanic activity, and are remarkably bare of trees, gaining beauty from sunrises and sunsets, moonlight, and an annual ‘greening’, when the rains of Spring bring out the new leaves of Sagebrush and native grasses.

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‘Signature Mountains of Kamloops, B. C.’, watercolour on Arches Hot Press Paper 140 lb., R. Foster Collection

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finch miniature

May 28, 2015

THE HOUSE FINCH IS A RECENT INTRODUCTION from Western into Eastern North America (and Hawaii), but it has received a warmer reception than other arrivals like the European Starling and House Sparrow. That’s partly due to the cheerful red head and breast of males, and to the bird’s long, twittering song, which can now be heard in most of the neighborhoods of the continent. If you haven’t seen one recently, chances are you can find one at the next bird feeder you come across. (source: Cornell Ornithology)

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‘House Finch’ 7.6cm x 11.4cm, (3″x 4.5″), watercolour on Arches Hot Press 140 lb. Paper 

WHEN WE LIVED IN QUEBEC it was easy to tell the difference between a House Finch and a Purple Finch, simply because one was red and the other was the shade of pickled beets. Truly, to me at least, the Purple Finch was the more impressive, whereas a House Finch sort of came across as a Sparrow who’d fallen into some cherry koolaid.

IN WESTERN CANADA we do not have Purple Finches.  The House Finch has become a delight in its own right, particularly because it is indeed attractive, and has truly a most melodious and lovely song.  They are not overly aggressive and take turns at the feeders with their usual companions, the Goldfinches.

wee glimpses

May 26, 2015

PAINTING OUTDOORS has a way of getting a person to make judgment calls quickly, and in our area it is quite simply the heat of the day.

KAMLOOPS, B.C., IS UNIQUE IN THAT its mountainous hillsides are grass-covered with considerable sagebrush but little tree growth to the 900m level, creating what is known as an inverted tree line.

IN MOST PLACES TREES WON’T GROW above a certain level due to the lack of precipitation, but in Kamloops, they won’t grow below a certain level due to the lack of precipitation.  We are known as The Sunshine Capitol of Canada, receiving over 2,000 hours of sun annually.

IOW, IT IS HOT.  And since sun and heat are our landscape’s signature features, painting a local watercolour outdoors demands sitting right the heck out there.

THAT IS WHY IT MAKES GREAT SENSE to me to choose to do this by way of painting miniatures.

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‘A Kamloops August’, watercolour, 6.35cm x 8.90cm (2.5″ x 3.5″), Arches Hot Press 140 lb. paper

MINIATURES demand quick thinking and choosing the elemental–the scene’s compositional essences–getting them down efficiently and thoughtfully, though, at the same time, quickly.

A GOOD MINIATURE can serve as the template for a much larger, studio piece.  And good miniatures stand up very well all by themselves.  This particular one has been accepted into two different juried Federation of Canadian Artists Shows, including the annual ‘Small, Smaller, Smallest’.  It was, in that show, the very smallest of the lot.  And that made me very happy!

mountain storm

May 24, 2015

MOUNTAIN STORMS ALWAYS COME WITH high winds and occasionally with hail, and here in Kamloops, British Columbia, are often felt in one part of the city and not in others. Being a city of roughly 90,000, built around, about, and on top of mountainous terrain, the overall elevation is about 350 meters (1,125 ft).  There can be terrible flashes and crashes and gusts–much huffing and puffing–with the promised deluge itself being delivered everywhere else but on our crispy, thirsty yard and gardens.

'Mountain Storm'

‘Summer Storm’ 

watercolour, 30cm x 23cm, (12″ x 9″), Arches Cold Press 140 lb. paper,

G.W. Weisser Collection

showstoppers

May 22, 2015

SOME BIRDS ARE JUST LOOKERS.  Here in the Southern Interior of British Columbia we have a few worthy of stopping traffic.

NOT BEING MUCH OF A PHOTOGRAPHER–a person who snaps pictures, really–I can only share my photos of some of our local showstoppers, the first being a …..

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Western Tanager in the front garden

Tanagers come here to nest, as do many songbirds

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Spring, 2011

ANOTHER LOOKER OF A BIRD is the …..

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Pileated Woodpecker, January, 2011

AND A GREAT FAVOURITE OF MINE IS a. . . .

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Mountain Bluebird, Summer, 2012

THE MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD is found here in our abundant grasslands, and are encouraged to remain by our local people building and mounting birdhouses meant especially for them.  And truly there are no blues quite as brilliantly displayed as on a male Mountain Bluebird, who, while I was snapping away and adjusting my lense, remained surprisingly still and unperturbed, as though enjoying (and deserving) the attention.

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Male Mountain Bluebird, Kamloops, B. C., 2012

RECENTLY I WAS ASKED TO PROVIDE A MINIATURE of a Male Northern Cardinal, a bird not found in Western Canada.  Having to rely on images not my own, and hoping the result would do justice to the actual bird itself . . . .

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Northern Cardinal’ watercolour, arches hot press paper      9cm x 6cm (2.5″ x 3.5″)

IT IS BEING SENT OFF TO a patron in New York City, where I believe a Northern Cardinal might be seen gracing the beautiful environs of New York’s Central Park.

raven moon

May 20, 2015

PAINTING NIGHT has become something of a preoccupation.  On a very bald and pedestrian level, one could simply say that ‘night sells’.  However, it is the ‘why’ which is intriguing–why do scenes of watercolour-rendered night have an appeal.

raven winter aa

‘Raven Moon’, watercolour, 35cm x 25cm (14″x10″), Art Board, (sold)

THERE IS A FASCINATION over what goes on in nature while we are sleeping.  When walking the dog at 4 a.m., there are owls hooting, deer eating in people’s yards, the occasional cries of coyotes, and the enduring scent of lilac.

HEARING, TOUCHING, SMELLING all come alive, while seeing is at the pleasure of the muted moon–at once reassuring and mysterious.

painting night

May 18, 2015

THERE IS A FASCINATION surrounding night, when all is cloaked in darkness and the earth dons a mysterious manteau.

WE SEE, and yet we don’t.  Depicting night is a painting fascination because I personally do not have a firm visual anamnesis of what exactly night ‘looks like’.

FOR EXAMPLE, is the moon really white–or silvery?  Or is it, rather, lemony–or perhaps, blue?

A NUMBER OF RENOWNED NORTH AMERICAN PAINTERS made the depiction of night their signature subject.  Some, like the famous Western painter, Remington, chose to depict moonlight as a bit of each, including even at times, degrees of green….

Remington 008 2048px_frederic_remington___the_call_for_help_by_kirbykalibak-d6u6hv1

IT IS SOMEWHAT OF A MYSTERY as to what our eyes truly see, in terms of chromaticity, when looking at night, and particularly, moonlight.  Painting night offers an enjoyable challenge: convincing viewers that what has been painted corresponds to their personal, nightly experience.

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Up Late’,  watercolour, Arches Hot Press Paper, “14×18”, (sold)

THIS IS ANOTHER heritage home in Kamloops, known locally as Fort House, because it was built on land originally used as a Fort by The Hudson Bay Company when Kamloops was established in 1812.  At present, this early 20th century farmhouse is a rather rundown rooming house.

THE SOUTHERN INTERIOR  of British Columbia is a desert-like landscape, plunging steeply into geologically-unique valleys that include rattlesnakes, a ground-creeping variety of prickly pear cactus, sagebrush, and tumbleweed.

I ACCIDENTALLY DISCOVERED the local cacti by casually placing my hand on top of one in our backyard shortly after we’d moved to our current home.

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local prickly-pear cactus

OUR BACKYARD as such, is mostly mountain ridge, covered in these low-lying cacti, sagebrush, and outcropping of rock.

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Local terrain

RUNNING UP AND DOWN OUR RIDGE are flocks of Chukar Partridges–a bird which belongs in ‘Roadrunner’ cartoons.  Their name is derived from their ‘chuk-chuk-chuk-CHUK-CHUK-CHUKCHUKCHUKCHUK!!!’ call (who needs an alarm clock?).  Below is a not-very-good photo of one (they are always on the run, making my camera skills not up to the task)….

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local Chukar Partridge

NEARBY US is a very geologically-dramatic area called The Tranquille Creek Gorge.

Lower Tranqulle River

PAINTING THIS TERRAIN ON LOCATION has to be done rather quickly (depending on the time of day), as temperatures can go up to 40C and the sun is relentless due to the lack of trees, and thus, shade….

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watercolour sketch, tranquille creek

COMING HERE FROM THE WET AND RAINY B. C. COAST, it has taken me years to come to fully appreciate the beauty of an arid area such as ours.  But now that my eyes are open to the subtlety, I wouldn’t return to all that green for anything in the world.  I’m happy in the depth of our browns (smile).

conveying mood

May 14, 2015

THE HERITAGE HOMES in our city of Kamloops were built at the turn of the 20th Century and are really rather distinctive, reflecting a very decided Victorian panache.  Here are a couple which have been perfectly maintained….

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PAINTING-WISE, the more interesting homes are, for me, the ones which have been given up for rooming houses, and therefore rather neglected….

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‘Columbia Street Noel’, 7″x12″, watercolour, (sold)

THE OBJECTIVE is to successfully convey a particular mood to the viewer–in this case, a certain melancholy–a fragile attempt at dressing-up a once-proud home in the midst of frigid temperatures and icy snow.

The buyer of this painting saw it in the Gallery and exclaimed that her parents had had this house built, and immediately claimed it for her own.  It suddenly made me wish I hadn’t been quite so accurate about painting in the worn and shabby details.

tortured brushes

May 12, 2015

THE BEST BRUSHES–in my wacked estimation–is a dollar store packet in the crafts section,  next to those garish tubes of glitter and such.  The second those poor things get home, they undergo an Edward Scissorhands attack that is not pretty.

brushes, trees for Cornel

SECOND-HAND STORES also usually have some wonderful, pathetic-looking excuses for brushes, pretty much being handed out for free.

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VERY FEW BRUSHES I own get to keep their original shape except ones sized 0, 00, 000, and 0000. For some additional fine work, a nib pen loaded with watercolour does well also.  But for large areas, chopped-up, hippie-freak brushes are like, tubular, man.

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FORGET SABLE–even squirrel is too refined–woodchuck, maybe–and those synthetic sponges on handles used to paint walls with are good, too.

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‘Mountain Mists’, 20cm x 28cm, Arches hot press 140 lb paper

THE TRUE ENJOYMENT OF PAINTING comes when viewing how another painter’s personal and unique need for self-expression realises itself in ways personal and unique.  Interaction with the subject demands an approach which only the painter her/himself knows is right.

Bacon & Eggs

May 10, 2015

What a way to bring joy to a very nurturing Mom…

Art lessons for Ben

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Cornelia

May 9, 2015

AT OUR RECENT FEDERATION OF CANADIAN ARTISTS ART SHOW, I kept coming back to look at a piece by the Vancouver painter Ali Sepahi.  (www.sepahigallery.com)

BECAUSE OF RECENT KINDNESSES SENT MY WAY by people requesting commissions, I had enough moola burning a hole in my pocket to be able look at his painting with acquisitional eyes.

BUYING ARTWORK is a wonderful delight that I don’t give in to unless someone is buying one/some of mine.  And I am not beyond bargaining.  If I only have X-number of dollars from a recent sale, that is all I have to spend (a necessary and self-imposed rule).

IF I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY from having sold something of mine–and the painter I’m negotiating with can’t meet my bottom line–I have to walk away.  And that is sometimes very very difficult to do.  Usually, however, an arrangement is able to be made–but has to be done once an art show or exhibit has closed, and–of course–the painting outlasted the event and went unsold.

THIS PAINTING WAS ENTITLED ‘Grandma’.  Not being greatly enamoured with that choice (after all, I don’t exactly enjoy being looked at by onlookers as ‘Grandpa’), I researched female names and after dithering a long time decided the work was to be re-christened ‘Cornelia’.  That’s because I don’t know any Cornelias.  [I was going to name her ‘Beatrice’, but I already know a Beatrice, and it wouldn’t do — insights into my slightly OCD brain.]

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Ali Sepahi, oil on canvas, 61cm x 46cm (24″ x 18″), painted using a colour shaper

THIS WORK IS ABSOLUTELY STUNNING in my book.  The brevity of line, sparse delineation, those slight indicators of head tilt, clutch of serviette, careful reach towards drinking glass–oh my, oh my, but this is GOOD.  And crowning it all is the floral panache of a hat chosen to show that underneath it is no ordinary person willing to be defined by age or the brittleness of what our ripening years dish out.

FOR TEN YEARS my profession was that of Clergy–Presbyterian–and prior to that, my experience of memorable people in the manner of this painting, was due to my having been born ‘a child of the Manse’.  The ‘Cornelias’ I have been privileged to know, and yes, love, from my childhood onward, have been many.  Observing each one, discreetly attending to her carefully chosen paper plate of chicken salad–sitting apart from the younger ones at wedding receptions–finding that place under a large oak at the Sunday School picnic–not wanting to be obvious, while wearing a hat which was anything but humdrum, I knew before long I would be making my way towards her.  And she was always gracious in welcoming me–whether I was 8, or whether, wearing full collar, I was approaching as her Cleric–ready to amuse me with wry observations, regale me with stories of memorable wedding disasters, charm me in a smilingly-hushed voice, all the while allowing her milky-blue eyes to convey her longing that I not yet go visit someone else, and leave her–once again–all alone.

IT MAKES MY OWN EYES WELL UP EVEN YET, how  the Cornelias of this world have unexpectedly nurtured my needy heart time and time again.  And it will be an honour and a privilege to find her–this Cornelia–a treasured place on the dining room wall, even as we observe yet another floral-hatted Mother’s Day Sunday.

painting pickles

May 7, 2015

CAMPING ALONE along the Oregon Coast–that fantastically alive strip of ocean wonders–provided many outdoor painting pickles. . . .

PICKLE #1–mosquitoes and bugs.  Surely some art restoration expert somewhere has discovered kamikaze mosquitoes embedded in the impasto of Impressionist art.  French curses likely filled the air, Claude spending as much time squashing bugs as trying to capture the light.  Imagine the fog of mosquitoes waiting for him up beside those water lilies;

PICKLE #2–the wind.  Big, dramatic, vividly-alive ocean waves are that size because of the wind.  The wind along the Oregon Coast is permanent and robust.  It carries away notebooks, sketch pads, laptop easels, flimsy plastic pallets, kolinsky brushes, art pencils, and tissues.  And, as one panics, dashing after them, fresh water rinse containers are spilled (of course, the nearest fresh water source is at the damn parking lot bathroom), and then (naturally) there goes the lawn chair, too–end over end, heading towards the box kite-flying couple smirking at the Mr. Bean imitation.  Everything rescued, finally sitting, easel anchored with one determined hand, brush swishing about in the water jar, a sudden gust throws sand over everything, and the stupid tilley hat Christmas present (guaranteed to age a person 20 yrs, whether 25 or 55) is seen sailing out towards the surf, the wind carrying away the muttered sounds of ‘good riddance’ along with it.

Arch Cape, Oregon a

PICKLE #3…..time and tides.  Outdoor painting (forget this en plein air crap–it’s called painting outdoors) isn’t done in studio time.  It’s done in real live time.  The tides never stay put.  So the grand, thundering waves are either constantly retreating as the scene is being depicted, or–this is nabob of stubbornness–they are approaching at an erratic, yet ever-constant rate, until the-I’m-staying-put painter sees his supplies (pallet, paint box, little stool, brushes, tubes, you name it) suddenly sucked out into the collapsing surf of an unannounced, really big wave–a REALLY BIG WAVE–which is about to be followed by another.

PICKLE #4…..no supplies left…..

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cliffs near Newport Beach, Oregon

….. and sketching is suddenly the preferred medium….*sigh*… and geriatric Charlie Brown decides to go find some fish and chips–and a local art supply store.

…..and maybe a therapist.  or a bar.

eggs as canvas ….

May 5, 2015

DUCK EGGS ARE THE BEST for receiving watercolour pigment.  They have a satiny shell surface.  Chicken eggs are better if one is using the ancient Ukrainian Orthodox, bees wax, kitska stylus, and dye method.

Chicken eggs have a kind of chalky, calcium-like surface which, yes, can be painted, but feels like the cheaper version of a duck egg.  [Oh my, that probably tops your abstruse observation quota for today]  Ahem….plowing-on into the arcane . . .  a duck egg is more forgiving a surface because removing mistakes is easily accomplished using a Q-tip.

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(above) Chicken Egg Christmas ornament using bees wax, Ukrainian kistka stylus and traditional dyes

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Watercolour Painted Eggs, (four duck eggs, one goose egg)

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Hand-painted Christmas Egg Ornaments, watercolour, with multiple, clear fixative layers applied for protection.

The impetus for exploring eggs as a painting surface came from my having seen, as a child, hand-painted blown eggs with Spring flowers on them, gathered and hung by streams of ribbon for an Easter breakfast within our German church.  Their beauty gave me new eyes and I viewed my grade school wax crayon attempts with a certain childish contempt.  And it perplexes me still, that such a long ago vision remained an artistic impulse to do for myself what I saw modelled back then.

What has put my egg art enjoyment on (permanent?) hold is my having received two Peacock eggs that I delayed blowing-out….only to have them explode all over the walls and ceiling just as I was finally drifting off to sleep one night, months after they were given to me.

You seriously do not want to know the level of grossness — the vile, rank, and utter foulness — of having to clean up an entire living room punctuated, peppered, with rotten Peacock egg at one o’clock in the morning.

My childhood vision of hand-painted Easter eggs has been forever cataracted by the Peacock eggs from hell.

composition woes….

May 3, 2015

MY GREATEST CHALLENGE when painting anything is composition.  For years I felt I was being a ‘purist’, insisting that I always paint on location, never in a studio setting.  And once at the location, I convinced myself that if a tree was in that spot, then that was how it needed to be depicted.

IT WAS ALL DUE TO my tendency to early-on stop referring to the subject in front of me and become more and more involved in what was happening on paper, to the point where I may as well have not been on location at all.  So in an effort at self-discipline, I decided that not only should I paint what things actually look like, I shouldn’t muck around with how and where ‘mother nature’ placed them.

THE SILLY THING WAS, I ended up choosing a composition by default because of course, I couldn’t paint everything my eyes saw in front of me.  And more often than not, it was not a good composition.  So now, not only do I go to some lengths to study the skill of creating an interesting arrangement, I realise it is the painter’s task to take what ‘mother nature’ provides and make art out of that.  Fences do need to be repositioned, as do trees and hills and clouds.

SO NOW I MAKE thumbnail studies first on matt board before beginning anything . . .

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THE OBJECTIVE is to provide a focal point, a visual way in towards it, then additional visual interest so the eye has more to discover by wandering beyond the subject itself.  These thumbnails are exploring the use of a compositional figure ‘Z’ shape to lead the eye of the viewer.

 

 

 

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