22 July 2014

two exhibitions

It is with great pleasure I write that my work has been accepted into the Federation of Canadian Artists "Painting On The Edge" competition this year.  Here is the piece that will be showing:

Painting On The Edge
acrylic and mixed-media stitching on canvas
33w x 17.25h inches

POTE will run from August 19th to September 7, 2014, at the FCA gallery on Granville Island, Vancouver BC.

Also, the Front Gallery will be exhibiting my work, along with the work of Amy Dryer, in October of this year.  Here are studio images of some of the finished pieces intended for that exhibition:

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Eight suites of work.  Ninety-six individual canvases.  Logistically a bit insane, but creatively very invigorating!

17 July 2014

other suns

I've been reading The Warmth of Other Suns.  This is not a book about Edwin Hubble, but it does, very briefly, mention his discovery of other solar systems: "a faint glimmer of distant light".  
I like that description.  I like thinking about what a phenomenal thing it was, this discovery, this concrete evidence of a universe much bigger than most people had heretofore fathomed.  Now almost a century has passed since Hubble made his observations and the universe is still much bigger than we can know, although we continue to try to measure it.  

Here's what I've been working on in the studio these last couple of weeks:

verna vogel studio

verna vogel studio

I've also spent some time working outdoors.  Shown below, sealing some finished works preparatory to varnishing, and doing some initial colour staining of canvas pieces prior to stitching:

verna vogel outdoor studio

verna vogel outdoor studio

The roses were blooming in front of the fence paintings a couple of weeks ago, and one night the light was a lovely warm yellow and everything was just glowing!  Camera almost captures that light:

verna vogel fence paintings

Things I like:

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Other things I like:

verna vogel creative culinary

My culinary adventures go largely undocumented, but this one had got some ingredients from the garden so I could not resist a photo.  Green onions - planted from the ends of store-bought onions and grown to new heights! - and garlic chives and mint.  The rest is from the grocery store.
I do love a soup flavoured with mint and ginger.  Though the combination sounded odd to me at first it is actually very delicious, especially in hot weather.

Even this one small world is immeasurable to me.

09 July 2014

three men and a palette

Today I had the great pleasure of making live portraits in my studio!  Quite exciting, as it has been Skype portraits all the way these last couple of years.  

First, Luke Lukasewich came over for a visit and a portrait session.  This was the first time we'd met in person, and I felt very comfortable with him right away.  Luke has a beautiful face to work from, too.

A quick sketch to begin with.  These generally take 15-20 minutes:

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graphite, conte, acrylic ink
on gesso'd 50lb paper
9x12 inches

Then an oil portrait.  I think this one took about an hour.  I couldn't resist taking a photo of the underdrawing, which looks like a zombie!  Well, things often have to get ugly before they can be beautiful, right?

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Hee hee.  Finished work is indeed more appealing:

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Portrait Of LL
oil on canvas
9.5/10 x 14.5 inches
I make a point of not asking my sitters to sit still, because sitting still is very unnatural for humans!  So Luke and I were talking and he was moving around a bit and this portrait shows that, which I like very much.

Then, while I had the oil paints and brushes out, a friend who's been staying with us agreed to sit for me.  He was a little more self-conscious and sat fairly still.  Again, I made a quick sketch and an oil painting.

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pencil crayon and oil on gesso'd 50lb paper
9x12 inches

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preliminary sketch

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Portrait of RM
oil on canvas
11 x 15 inches

Lastly, a portrait of my best friend.  He is not very comfortable being the centre of attention, which includes my artist gaze, so I very much appreciated his sitting for me.  And he sat very still indeed!

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conte on paper
9x12 inches

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Portrait of JP
oil on paper
10 x 13.5 inches

About 10 minutes into the oil painting he was asking if it was done yet!  So I skipped trying to colour anything in and left it as more of a sketchy drawing kind of painting.  It took maybe half an hour, maybe less time than that.

He remarked that it looks like a 12th-century illustration of a peasant in a field.  Personally, I think it looks like a 12th-century illustration of a scholar discussing philosophy.

All today's portraits turned out rather nicely, in my opinion.  A good day.

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05 July 2014

Silk Worms and other things

Today I found myself again in the countryside north of Calgary, spending the afternoon at a friend's cabin.  Brought my painting gear along, surprise surprise.  *laughs*   

First off, though, I became entranced by a multitude of ants who appeared to be moving house.  Travelling along their route, they were carrying eggs of all sizes - and some were carrying other ants, something I have never observed before.  Newly hatched perhaps?  They were small and curled up and seemingly inert as they were being carried along.  They put me in mind of de-activated robots.

After spending half an hour or so observing the ants, I figured I may as well get some painting in, as I had my kit with me and all.

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the long view

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the specific view

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the underpainting

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Somehow I was not quite into painting a landscape in my usual way, today.  Maybe watching those ants had something to do with it... why try to depict only the surface of the thing when there is so much going on underneath? kinda thoughts.  So this painting was done in about 20 minutes, trying to catch some essence without fussing over surface details.

My palette, which I forgot to photograph, was very limited: 
cadmuim green light (hue)
cadmuim red middle (hue)
olive green
naples yellow
titanium white

And here's a glimpse into the studio of late:

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Silk Worms
18x18 inches each

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painted "frames"
 So here I am playing with edges, how to treat.  Working title: "Silk Worms".  This refers to the line quality and the organic but measured way those lines build up.  It also refers to some idea of things I have been reading in John Donne's "sermons" where he writes about the human desire to transcend earthly existance - everyone's body is eaten by worms in the end, and after death one cannot transform those lowly earthworms into silkworms.

I have really been thinking about what, exactly, I hope to accomplish with this life of art-making.  Not so much in a worldly sense but in a (personal? spiritual?) sense... no concrete answers yet, only questions.

And below, a new series underway.  Playing with the idea of an echo or shadow; this photo shows the very initial stages of that idea:

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new series

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Acrylic inks, which have not been used in a long time and which, I am certain, are very happy to have a purpose once again.

Until next time,

22 June 2014

and again!

I have been doing other things besides plein air painting these last few weeks, but not documenting that work yet, so here we go: another plein air blog post.

Today we went out past Okotoks, sorta near the junction of hwy 549 and rr 338, just above the Sheep River valley.  Beautiful spot, filled with the type of Alberta prairie stuff I love - lots of long wild grasses and flowers of all sorts, very meadow-y and beautiful, a bit damp yet, but much to our surprise no mosquitoes!  After all that rain!  Lucky us.

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the view

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the preliminary sketch
Dirty camera lens, heh.  Still, good for field shots  :)

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the palette
In addition to these colours I used raw sienna and cadmium green, finding I needed to warm things up a bit mid-way through.  Around 7pm things go a bit more gold...

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the almost-completed work
I wound up altering this one a wee bit after we got home.

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before, in the field
Above, what it looked like when we packed up to go.  
Below, what it looks like now: 

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after, on the back deck
The main change I made was to the top edge of the trees at left, and a bit of the hillside beyond.  I also brightened those dabs of blue in the foreground - a slough with just a bit of water showing through the long, darker grasses.

It's not often I change a painting after leaving the field, and I can only really do it with any degree of authenticity immediately we arrive home, while my memory of the place is very fresh.

That last one I quite like.  Sometimes the old camera gets the focus bang-on.

16 June 2014

number 86

On Saturday I found myself on the banks of the Red Deer river with my painting outfit.  There was a steep, crumbly bank to the left (not shown in these photos) and lots of trees and rocks and rushing waters.  Again, very difficult things to paint well!  But looking down the river one could get a bit of distance...

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closest zoom possible

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cropped to this

So I was focussed on this tiny slice of a view far down the river, and here's what that view inspired:

verna vogel landscape #86
Alberta Landscape #74
oil on canvas, 10x10 inches

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initial blocking in

verna vogel plein-air palette
limited palette + white
I have been thinking a lot about my other work, the multiples series I've been engaged in since January, and other abstract explorations.  Had a really great conversation with Ross Melanson this morning via skype, in which we discussed all sorts of philosophical ideas and how they relate to our respective art processes.  Ross makes conceptual art in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

My multiples are all about the many-sided view.  Our peripheral vision conveys more information, from more directions and through more avenues, than a focussed gaze ever could.  This is an idea which I come back to again and again in my work.

So it's interesting to me that I go out and paint these plein air landscapes, because it would seem that what I am doing is looking with a very specific focus, and attempting to depict in paint the thing that I am looking at.  

Why?  I ask myself.  Is this practice not the antithesis of all my studio exploration?  Well, yes....  ah, but no: 

I never paint landscapes from a photo, working in my studio*.  After conversing with Ross this morning, it has occurred to me that the appeal of plein-air painting is that when one sits on location to paint, a lot of peripheral information about the landscape invariably gets in, one way or another.

To paint a landscape from a photo would be the true antithesis of what I do in my studio, because a photo necessarily cuts out peripheral information.  In fact, this very aspect of photography is the basis of a debate around ideas of "truth" in photos.  Ah-ha!

Ross talked a bit about how, even when an artist makes a seemingly abrupt shift in style or subject, there is invariably a continuity in their work.  

Well, I believe I have just discovered some continuity between plein-air paintings and studio practice: the importance of peripheral information which permeates everything I do.

Thank you Ross!  :)

* A few months ago I made a landscape painting which was basically an enlargement of a plein-air work.  It was commissioned by my parents-in-law, and was definitely one of the more difficult things I've attempted to do in the studio - not so much due to the expectations of family, but rather due to the lack of information I had to go on, as my own plein-air work leaves a lot out!  The completed painting looks well in their home, but for me does not catch the essence of the landscape depicted.

And here is a lovely snippet of the Sheep river from last week:

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Something about the shape of that brush, against that rock, in that water...

02 June 2014

nearing 100

This weekend I painted on the banks of the Sheep River.  Here's the first one:

steel sky woman landscape

The sky was very moody when I began and then cleared up by the time I'd finished.  Oh those Alberta skies, where storms pass over the horizon without lingering!  Water tumbling over rocks is still very difficult for me to paint well, but I am determined to keep at it and improve.

Next day I tried again:

the view

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the sketch

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the completed painting

I like that second one better, though I still have in my mind's eye an image of landscape painting that I rarely come close to, ha.  Well, I would set the bar very high and then work towards it.

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sand, an excellent brush holder

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my perch 6 feet above the river

I am nearing 100 plein air paintings.  When I began doing this I did not intend it to become such a regular part of my practice.  Isn't it funny how things go?