26 May 2016

Daily Paintings #18-19-20

Well, I've made 20 paintings in 10 days since I started this "daily painting" thing.  Obviously something is working, I'm getting back into making art on a regular basis.  This makes me feel so happy.

A lot of the daily paintings have been studies for a series of larger works, but yesterday I was at the art-supply store and in between customers I did a couple of quick portraits of my co-workers.  How lovely to work in a shop that affords time for such pursuits!  We are all practicing artists who staff the store - that's part of the appeal.

ryan portrait verna vogel oil on matboard
oil on matboard, 9x12 inches approx. 
melanie portrait vernavogel oil on matboard
oil on matboard, 8x10 inches approx.
This morning I went over to the seniors' residence to play scrabble with my friend, but first I painted his portrait:

Peter portrait oil on canvas vernavogel daily paintings
oil on wood panel, 10x10 inches
This afternoon I will prime a few more pieces of canvas and maybe stretch a couple of canvases too, since I've been thinking some of the studies could be done on stretched canvas as well as non-stretched pieces, as I have been doing so far.

And the garden is wanting some attention, and my bike needs a major tune-up, and a few other errands to keep life going... and that will make a good day.

Until next time,


21 May 2016

Daily Paintings #5,6,7,8

Painting #5: May 20, 2016

daily painting self portrait with conte verna vogel
conte on gesso'd paper, 9x12 inches
Conte applied dry and also with brush & water, which makes this a painting :)

Paintings #6,7,8: May 21, 2016

Today's daily painting multiplied itself!

Three little paintings, studies for an idea that may translate into larger works... or may not.  Plus a piece of primed paper upon which I jettisoned the leftover paint but do not consider a finished piece (far right).

oil painting studies ellipse

Mineral violet, chromeoxide green and yellow ochre, plus white.  Mixed in varying proportions, these will create a good range of colour.

19 May 2016

Not-so-daily paintings

So much for the concept of "daily paintings" - I did not make a painting yesterday.  Falling off the wagon only 2 days into it!  My excuse: between working at the store and in the garden, I ran out of time and energy.  Boooo.  But yesterday I did notice my neighbour's garbage & recycling bins and thought, "There's my next painting subject!"

Painting #3: May 19, 2016, morning

Despite heavy overcast this morning, out I went.  Set up my gear under the spruce tree and worked for almost an hour before it began to drizzle.  Once the rain started I finished up in a hurry.

the view

the palette

the painting
oil painting of garbage & recycling bins in front of a wood fence
finished on (wet) location
photographed in (dry) studio
Loving the palette of this one; the composition, not so much.  I placed the bins closer together on purpose, but then I missed some vital bits of alignment between them and wound up with an amateurish painting.  C'est la vie; next one better.

Painting #4: May 19, 2016, evening

Two paintings today, to make up for yesterday.  The studio is very cozy when it's raining out!  A quick self-portrait with leftover paint from this morning.

self-portrait oil on paper verna vogel
underpainting made with just one 1" brush

self portrait oil on paper verna vogel
finished portrait

Boy, that underpainting sure had a lot of life in it!  I really like the expression, sort of curious and open.  The finished self-portrait is good too, but I wonder... which one could be said to be more accurate?

18 May 2016

Daily Paintings #1 and #2

I just spent about 3 months doing quite a bit of teaching and not much studio work.  Now the teaching is more-or-less finished, and I've decided to kick-start the summer by doing a month of daily paintings.  Here are the first two, simple views from the back yard.

Daily Painting #1 - May 16, 2016

The view:

 The palette:

Placing the compositional elements as minimally as possible:

The painting in several steps: 

That lovely dappled light is from the tree I sit under, it's unfortunately not part of the painting: 

Finished work on the studio wall: 

Daily Painting #2 - May 17, 2016

And finished: 

16 May 2016


Last night I was projecting an image on the wall, and I noticed this:

capital cities of canada verna vogel

Now I'm wondering if I can somehow incorporate light images into the work...

12 May 2016

Intelligence, Courage and Love

I believe I've landed a dream job: teaching visual arts at the Arts Commons through Campus Calgary Open Minds and the One-Day Arts School program.  

The students teach me a lot.  Mostly they teach me about being really open-minded as they are generally not bound by pre-conceived ideas of structure and meaning in their projects.  It's very refreshing.

This month I taught two mask-making workshops with grade 4-5 students, with a concept based on this poem.  My idea for the project was to think about identity in terms of intelligence, courage and love.  If we have these three things - and most of us do, if we look deeply enough - then we are rich, no?  Intelligence, courage and love are things that no one can take away from us, because they come from inside ourselves - and we can use them to overcome life's pain and celebrate beauty.

First I will show you some prototypes I made, and then the students' work.

verna vogel mask prototypes, papier-mache and cardboard masks
Mask prototypes: papier-mache and shaped cardboard
For every new art process, I make prototypes in my studio.  Doing this ensures the feasibility of the project within the time frame and - perhaps more important - creates a kind of mental space for me to think about how the project integrates with the students' curriculum, how I can introduce the concept, et cetera.  I do my best thinking with my hands.

The first workshop was through Campus Calgary and we had two days, which meant we could do papier mache!  Below are my prototypes for complex and simple mask designs:

verna vogel papier-mache maskverna vogel mask-making class

verna vogel papier-mache masksverna vogel mask-making workshop

The second workshop was through One-Day Arts School, so we used templates to make shaped cardboard masks.  Starting with a simple template, these masks can become more complex by extending the shapes.

verna vogel mask prototypes
Shaped cardboard templates and masks

So those were my own studio prototypes.  Below are some masks the students made, and they did some pretty sophisticated work.  Both classes were super creative and came up with whole new concepts of how one can make a mask.  I learned a lot from them!

Papier-mache masks:

Half & half face, 3D bird beak and wings, wild pink feathers,
abstract triangular appendage - so much imagination!

Shaped cardboard masks:

See the yellow mask at the left?  That's hockey net on top!
There were so many excellent variations on my simple template.

Some of the students' comments and descriptions of their masks:

The different colours symbolize different aspects of my personality, such as my helpfulness (love), my sense of humour (intelligence), and my patience (courage).

The silver colour and Viking shape of my mask is for courage, the red gem in the middle is for love and the amber gems are my intelligence.

I used paint splatters which look like MRI images of areas of the brain which light up when engaged.  Also, the blue-green colour is like a peacock, which is a very intelligent bird.

My mask is overall red and has sparkly gems all over it, because intelligence, courage and love are inseparable.

I feel grateful to be able to engage in this level of creative thinking, to contribute to the creative learning of future generations.  It seems a very worthwhile use of my talents.  A quote from the Arts Commons website:

"Uncovering curriculum through the lens of the arts has the potential of engaging our youth, equipping them with the skills and knowledge that will help them respond to the complexities of our world today and in the future."

Yes indeed.

24 April 2016


As an artist I like to cultivate a habit of visual observation by painting landscapes and making portraits.  Not that I try to reproduce anything exactly, as that would quickly get boring.  Rather, it's a case of split-second, on-the-spot extrapolation, made possible by many years of focussed observation.

For example, at a glance the view below is rather mundane:

But when I take the time to closely observe what is happening in the landscape, I can pull out some of the pure colours which make up all those tertiary tones, and, taking a few compositional liberties as well, arrive here:

steel sky woman

What fun, eh?

Besides going plein air painting, this week I made a few more quick portraits.  The basic drawing part generally takes about 10 minutes; add a few more minutes for colour.


In making portraits, the most important thing for me is to catch the feeling of the person.  This requires perhaps a deeper level of observation than mere representational accuracy.

verna vogel

Sometimes I catch the feeling; other times, not so much.  

verna vogel

On rare occasions, the universe conspires in our favour and the portrait not only catches the feeling of the person but is also quite representationally accurate!

verna vogel

There are so many subtle things to observe about people, and the mood of the artist has some effect as well.

verna vogel

For me it not possible to catch much feeling from a photograph, so all my portraits are done "live".

verna vogel

Those portraits above are all done in my red 9x12 sketchbook, with half-perished Sharpie marker and watercolour crayons.  Sometimes I apply a coat of gesso and other times I just work on the paper as is.  The gesso is a nice base for watercolour crayons, and affects the line quality of felt markers, too.

Besides applying my observational skills to landscapes and portraits this week, I have also been suddenly teaching quite a lot.

That aforementioned "split-second, on-the-spot extrapolation" has become almost effortless in my art practice.  For example, the portraits above took maybe 10 minutes each - a bit longer when I used colour - and the landscape painting took maybe an hour from start to finish.  No problem, right?

In the classroom this is not the case.  Often I feel I'm flying by the seat of my pants.  It is not effortless for me to observe and react to 20-25 children's intellectual and social capacities at various age levels, their motor control skills, individual psychology, group dynamics, and a host of other subtle qualities, all while taking them through a process that will yield an appreciable end result.  Add to this mix the need for lickety-split mental reflexes and a very different approach to time management, and the whole thing becomes quite an adventure!

In fact it's rather like the way my art practice felt back in my student days.

Hehee.  It's good to be a student again.