16 April 2014


verna vogel steel sky woman

I have been enjoying the switch away from "multiples" to finishing these older works.
Delving into unknown territory makes for a wonderful but sort of exhausting journey.  It feels good to refuel with a more familiar aesthetic for awhile.

The yellow one has got to here:

verna vogel steel sky woman

And I've just collaged in a few more bits that need to be weighted down while they set:

verna vogel steel sky woman

Jars of preserves can be just the handiest things to have around!

13 April 2014


I need to clear some space, get some distance.

About a year ago I began a series titled "plane" and then, halfway into it, put most of them away to wait.  Today I pulled a few out and felt excited about them again.  Here's one:

verna vogel steel sky woman
verna vogel steel sky woman

Here are a couple more that need some work:

And here are a couple of finished pieces from the series:

verna vogel steel sky woman
56w x 49h inches

verna vogel steel sky woman
34w x 31h inches

When a series of work goes "pfoof" halfway through, and I cannot work up the energy or excitement to continue with it, then I lay the pieces aside for a few weeks, months, sometimes a year or two.  When some time has passed I will bring them out and find my energy to continue is renewed.  

Not a very efficient way of working is it, but that's OK - efficiency isn't everything and in the end I always manage to finish what I start, even if it takes a couple of years.

Maybe I pulled the "Plane" pieces out because I need a break now from the multiples.  
Here's the most recent multiple piece finished:

verna vogel steel sky woman

The texts
are insistent:
it takes two points
to make a distance.

The cubit,
for instance,
is nothing
till you use it.

Then it is rigid
and bracelike;
it has actual strength.

Something metal
runs through
every length -

the very armature
of love, perhaps.

Only distance
lets distance collapse.

- Kay Ryan

It seems I need a bit of distance now.  Finishing some of the "plane" works will accomplish two immediate things: emotional distance from the multiples, and a feeling of accomplishment that I'm finishing some older works.  

Also one longer-term effect I hope to gain is seeing the multiples more in context with my other work and not so much separate, which is how I have been perceiving them.

04 April 2014

black and white

White multiple series recently finished, working title: A Memory Of Flight.  
Here they are in my studio:

verna vogel - a memory of flight

Those stretchers in the photo above are meant for a black multiple series begun this week.  There will be 9 blacks in total.  Here are the first two in progress:

verna vogel - two points

verna vogel - two points

It's proving to be an interesting process to me, working on these multiple series.  I'm going very intuitively, not thinking much beyond simple aesthetics as they come together.  After they are made, stepping back to look and think, I find they invariably remind me of something...  a kind of hazy memory feeling.  I like this aspect of the work.

My parents are immigrants and from earliest childhood we moved from place to place, and what with one thing and another the continuity of memory was not much developed in me.  Now, working in this intuitive way - which is a bit unnerving (not being able to explain in a world that demands explanations, art gallery world included) - working in this really intuitive way seems to be opening up some kind of connective channels.  I am becoming a follower of threads!  haha

House Of Leaves

House Of Leaves
acrylic on 12 stitched canvases
10x10 inches each piece

The title of this piece originates in John Steinbeck's book "East of Eden"  In the latter part of the book, Caleb and Abra meet to talk under a weeping willow tree, and their hideaway is referred to as a "house of leaves".  This phrase gave me a wonderful image of a place apart from the pressures of the world, a restful place where nature soothes the soul.

When I made this work I was feeling very restless and anxious.  I believe that a lot of my artwork comes about through an attempt to balance myself, to "fill in" the bits that are missing, so to speak.  So this work is very calm and inviting, with softly scintillating colour in subtle hues.  When it was finished, I realized I had built my own house of leaves.

To view more images of this work, please click here.

24 March 2014

Alberta Landscape #69

March 22nd, 2:30 - 3:30pm
Weather: -5C and a bit windy
Artist: grumpy and uncomfortable
Landscape: out of reach

Verna Vogel landscape painting on location
Alberta Landscape #69
oil on cradled panel
10x10 inches
Wind in face, clumsy gloved hands, vision obscured by slipping hat, high level of human-nature disconnection... stubbornly I painted anyway.  

It was just so beautiful out there, flat and rather bleak, basically a perfect landscape which I did not manage to depict very well.  Chalk this one up as a record of a moment, nothing more and nothing less.

13 March 2014

A Week In The Life

No part-time "other job" for a few months now.  I am feeling so very grateful to be able to work as a full-time artist.  Sure, there are continuing struggles both external and internal, but underlying all is the feeling that here is the proper rhythm.

This is what my working week has been like:

Mailed a package of the Paperworks to the Front Gallery.  Cut the last birch plywood strips into short lengths for small stretchers.  Picked up newly ripped spruce plywood strips from the lumber store.

Tried an interesting experiment with Chris Wikman, an artist located in Saskatchewan.  We connected via skype while working in our respective studios, hundreds of kilometres apart.  We each worked on our own projects while talking (or not talking) listening to music (or not listening), and generally being companionable.  It was a fun and productive day!

Verna Vogel - Steel Sky Woman
Chris' daughter was intrigued with what we were doing.
What interesting times are these!

While skyping with Chris I worked on a painting which my parents-in-law have commissioned.  This is the third commission of my career.  It's pretty close to being finished:

Verna Vogel - Steel Sky Woman
Alberta Landscape #52
oil on birch panel
original: 10 x 10 inches
enlarged: 30 x 30 inches

Also while skyping with Chris I coated the first two sets of multiples with self-levelling clear gel, which is one of my favourite acrylic mediums:

Verna Vogel - Steel Sky Woman
Spin, Drift, Pool, Settle - blue pieces
House Of Leaves - gold toned pieces

Skype-ing again, this time to make portraits of Russell Mang, another Saskatchewan artist.  First one was very fast:

Verna Vogel - Steel Sky Woman
portrait of RM
sharpie marker and acrylic ink on gesso'd 60lb paper
9 x 12 inches
Second one took a bit more time:

Verna Vogel - Steel Sky Woman
portrait of RM
oil on gesso'd 15oz canvas
10 x 13.5 inches
There are some technical deficiencies in anatomy and lighting, but overall I like it, mainly because of the style of brushwork.  Total time spent was about an hour and a half.

Preparing the new spruce plywood strips into strongbacks:

Verna Vogel - Steel Sky Woman

The neat pile on the floor to the left are prepared strongbacks.

Building stretchers is a process that I love.  There is something very relaxing and uplifting about building really good painting supports and thinking about the paintings to come.

Office-variety paperwork.  (If all goes according to plan.)

Besides the studio work there are household errands and helping a friend fallen on hard times and phoning my far-away parents and some volunteer work at the seniors' centre.

It's a simple life in many ways, and it took a long time to find, and I am so very grateful for it.

09 March 2014

The Night Garden

Verna Vogel  a.k.a.  Steel Sky Woman
The Night Garden
mixed media and stitching on canvas
55x55 inches includes spacing
(12x12 inches each)

Verna Vogel  a.k.a.  Steel Sky Woman


Patience is
wider than one
first envisioned,
with ribbons
of rivers
and distant
ranges and
tasks undertaken
and finished
with modest
relish by
natives in their
native dress.
Who would
have guessed
it possible
that waiting
is sustainable -
a place with
its own harvests.
Or that in
time's fullness
the diamonds
of patience
couldn't be
from the genuine
in brilliance
or hardness.

Kay Ryan

02 March 2014

Steven Zevitas article

This is an excellent article which gives a broader perspective to some of my own struggles as a working artist.

I find it difficult to remember, sometimes, that I am not alone in this big and mostly mystifying world.  Reading stuff like this helps.  
Getting out of my own studio and talking to other artists also helps; I need to do more of that.


28 February 2014

evolution or stasis?

I'm currently into an idea of using a simple and repetitive format - in this case 10x10 multiples - and playing with colour.  This is an attempt to further my experiential knowledge of acrylics.

New work begun a few weeks ago started here:

Stretched them a few days ago, and yesterday began adding colour layers.  
Transparent greens and blues and pinks and yellow-ish whites:

Then, more green - oh, too much green!  Tried to balance with red/orange/pink edge colour:

Hmmm, not quite.  making decisions too fast perhaps.

Just stop and think, let it seep, let it settle...

But we are preparing to go out of town for a few days and for some reason, instead of using the trip as a time for letting things settle in the studio, I got into this "finish the thing before we leave" mentality.  

Hmmm.  I mean, it's one thing to make sure the dishes are done so as not to return home to chaos, but in the studio?  Really?

So in the end they look like this:

Or if one prefers, like this:

I am enjoying these, enjoying the colour play and simple format, but somewhere in myself is an idea that I could be pushing them a lot more.  If I gave myself more time to look and consider, perhaps... hmmm.

Or perhaps this is it; perhaps deep in my heart I know that I have entered an era of Verna's Little Shop of Home Decor Horrors: quickly made and quickly forgotten, and I will just have to wait out the decade.


24 February 2014


About three weeks ago I started two series of multiples (multiple = a single work made up of a number of pieces) using 10x10 canvases.  

The original idea had been to make one large painting, but when I considered the logistics of stitching it, I decided to go with multiple small canvases instead.  Of course I did not have enough 10x10 stretcher frames!  Waiting for the stretchers to come in provided a good thinking space while I worked on other things.

This weekend I got the stretchers - hooray! - and today I finished the first one:

verna vogel new work
Spin, Drift, Pool, Settle
mixed media on stitched canvas
10x10 inches each piece
To see a bit about its development, you could have a look at this previous blog post.

And here is the beginning of the second "multiple" - 14 pieces which will also go on 10x10 stretchers:

While waiting for the 10x10 stretchers to arrive, I stitched yet another "multiple" piece.  Each piece measures 16x78 inches, or 90x78 inches entire.  I'm quite excited about it:

verna vogel new work

This one will need to sit in my peripherals for a bit before I stretch it... meanwhile I can work on the 10x10 multiples.

As for the "Snapshot" series: I have just got some more canvas prints, and am now waiting for the plywood I ordered to be ready so I can build stretcher frames for the continuation of that series, since they tend to be larger works.

I really enjoy having several things on the go at once, it seems to be a fairly efficient way of working for me.

Happy days!

18 February 2014

we live in a beautiful world

Yesterday: a spur-of-the-moment trip to a friend's cabin where my husband, the friend and his two boys played with snowmobiles while I painted.

steel sky woman plein air
Alberta Landscape #66
oil on panel, 10x10 inches

steel sky woman plein air painting
Alberta Landscape #67
oil on panel, 10x10 inches

steel sky woman plein air painting
Alberta Landscape #68
oil on panel, 10x10 inches

16 February 2014

get back

snapshots series by verna vogel
New series under construction, December 30, 2013

Snapshot #9:  Direction
Snapshot #9: Direction
mixed media on stitched canvas
19.25w x 36.25h inches

Snapshot #10: Priority
Snapshot #10: Priority
mixed media on stitched canvas
33w x 17.25h inches

Snapshot #11: Someone Pushed It
Snapshot #11: Someone Pushed It
mixed media on stitched canvas
33w x 17.25h inches

Snapshot #12: K4A Anonymous - by Verna Vogel
Snapshot #12: K4A Anonymous
mixed media on stitched canvas
33w x 16.75h inches

Not sure that they are all complete...  but liking them a lot at this point.  

So far I've started this year with these "Snapshot" series, then I jumped over to starting some more abstract works (see previous post), then I travelled to visit my mum for a week, and now I've jumped back to the "Snapshots"... and in between I made a couple of portraits and one plein air landscape painting.

Funny thing: when I talk with other artists they invariably tell me that they focus on one thing at a time.  This one thing could be a style of painting with various subjects, or an ongoing exploration of one subject using various styles.  

I did spend several years focussed on one thing - the "Ecosystems" paintings which were made with oil glazes on stitched canvas, and I did get very good at making them.  However, since switching to acrylics a few years ago, I have developed a habit of jumping back and forth between several ideas and painting styles simultaneously.  Lately I have been wondering whether, in doing so many things at once, I run the risk of becoming the proverbial "jack of all trades and master of none".

In the end I tell myself that this jumping between and across ideas and styles should be viewed in the context of a lifetime spent painting, and in the context of cyclical explorations (since each time I return to an idea or style it is with added information from the other things I work on in between), and then it makes more sense, the whole lifelong endeavour of my work does show a continuity of development.

And after all, I only have this one life.  May as well spend it engrossed in lifelong exploration of the visual languages.

02 February 2014


Verna Vogel and Ross Melanson
stitching and colour by Verna Vogel
shaped wires by Ross Melanson
(lamp by Sylvania)


steel sky woman
2nd incarnation

then a little colour adjustment

Plotless?  Not exactly, but trying to keep an open mind as they develop.  So far they're are looking rather a lot like home-dec items...  so, maybe push them a bit more?  Or just accept them for what they are?  ....

27 January 2014

explanations and the plotting of trajectories

This week in between other work I've been playing with some abstract ideas.  It all began with an image of tree branches reflected in a bank of windows at dusk.  At the moment this work is more clumsy than elegant, and I've no clear idea where it's going, only just a glimmer of possibility:

steel sky woman abstract

verna vogel abstract

I've had some interesting conversations lately about things like whether an artist ought to explain their own work, or whether it is up to other people - exhibition curators for example - to put artists' work into context.  On the one hand I think an artist ought to be able to explain their own work... but then on the other hand I also think that explanations often obscure true meaning, that visual imagery IS the language, and when used well has no need for wordy augmentation.

Also I have been asked "Where do you see your work going?" which in my mind borders on the nonsensical.  Too much focus on destination, perhaps.  Certainly there are ideas I want to explore in my work, but where those ideas may lead...?  It seems presumptuous to attempt such predictions.

As it happens, lately I am surrounded my people for whom explanations and the plotting of trajectories seems to be a focus.  And I cannot really explain anything; the best I can do is to say that the images I create are the result of my taking in the world around me, holding and stirring, and spitting it back out, Verna-style.  That is my part, and the rest will take care of itself.

And I think that will do.


Edit - and then I thought of this article with David Quinn.

18 January 2014

fortunate life

This week I barely got into the studio at all.

I did get all my year-end bookkeeping finished, and I did update my inventory of work made in 2013, and I did do lots of other little niggly things of the sort that pile up until you can't ignore them anymore, like banking and grocery shopping and replacing the battery in my watch.  And I did ship out some paintings:

verna vogel plein air
7 landscapes shipped to AyrSpace Gallery
I am eagerly waiting for the landscapes to arrive and be unpacked, very curious what the response to them will be in real life compared to on a computer screen.

I also found a perfectly beautiful coat in a thrift shop, of a style I'd been on the lookout for for years, and which fits like it was made for me.  This is almost as exciting as making paintings.  :)

And yesterday I finally did get to make some paintings!  More skype portraits:

steel sky woman skype portraits
1st portrait: Ross Melanson
sharpie marker and acrylic ink on gesso'd paper
9x12 inches

verna vogel portrait of Chris Wikman
6th portrait: Chris Wikman
oil on gesso'd 300lb rag paper
11x15 inches

verna vogel portrait of Chris Wikman
7th portrait: Chris Wikman
sharpie marker and oil on gesso'd 300lb rag paper
11x15 inches

verna vogel portrait of Ross Melanson
2nd portrait: Ross Melanson
oil on gesso'd 300lb rag paper
12x13 inches

Chris Wikman is a full-time artist - here is Chris's website.
Ross Melanson is an artist and also works at the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery.
Here is Ross's website.

The skype session lasted 4 hours!  I have never had a skype session that intense, and it didn't feel like a long time.  We had some very interesting conversations, and I made 7 portraits in all.  

So it was a fantastic ending to a week filled with paperwork and mostly mundane errands.  I feel that I am very fortunate in my life.