23 July 2016

Outside and Inside

When the weather is fine I like to set up an old table and create an outdoor painting studio.  This week I decided to set up an outdoor print studio... which turned out to be a less-than-stellar idea.

verna vogel printmaking

The main problem: water-soluble inks dry incredibly quickly in this climate!  Various attempts to humidify them had either very little effect, or resulted in a mess.

Water-soluble paints dry fast, too, but...  Inking a plate, laying the paper, pressing and lifting the paper, then hanging the print with a little clip on a line - so much slower than the immediate brush stroke.

So I moved the whole apparatus back down into my studio, and the following day's work was less frustrating and more productive.  I even devised some print-drying lines that can be very efficiently set up and taken down - sweet!

fragile planets

That was my physical challenge this week, easily dealt with once my insistence on working outdoors had been overcome.  (I can still take my lunch break outside!)

There is also a subconscious challenge embedded in my persistence to create this project in the first place, a project which has no apparent "value" in common terms.

I have been reading some essays of Herman Hesse, who writes very succinctly of the value of art, music, poetry and anything that elevates the soul.  He has some timeless practical advice, for example:

"Neither by suppression of the material streaming out of the subconscious, out of uncontrolled fancy, dreams, and the byplay of the mind, nor by permanent surrender to the unshaped infinity of the unconscious, but rather through affectionate attention to these sources, and only afterward through criticism and selection from that chaos - thus have all the great artists worked."

verna vogel printmaking

So I am back to the classics: "Be quiet, brain, and let the hands work.  You can tell us what you think later."

10 July 2016

odds & ends

In between stitching the small canvas squares and making relief prints, I do a few other art-related things.  I work at the art supply store, re-arrange the artwork in our home, go for plein air painting jaunts out on the prairie, set up dates for a couple more teaching sessions next month.

portrait of ryan statz, by verna vogel - marker and watercolour on matboard

Above, a portrait of my co-worker made with very minimal tools, during the last bit of my shift at the art store.

Below, two of my "Paperworks" framed by Candace Larsen at CK Gallery.  Candace had complete free rein on all aesthetic choices for framing these pieces.  My photos are not great, but I'm really impressed with her work!   She is a Master framer indeed.

Paperworks framed by Candace Larsen, master framer at CK Gallery

Paperworks framed by Candace Larsen, master framer at CK Gallery

The gallery has got a few more of my Paperworks series currently available.

Also CKG is having their summer exhibition which opens in a few days, and a few of my small "Vibrato" series will be included.  I look forward to seeing them on a nice clean gallery wall!  But for the moment I only have a photo of them on my messy studio wall:

Vibrato series in studio, showing now at CK Gallery 2016 summer exhibition CHROMA

And here we have a very beautiful beetle I saw while walking out on the prairie.  It is Nuttall's Blister Beetle.

Nuttall's Blister Beetle

Its body was about 2cm long, and the colour of its head and "tail" flickered through bright copper, gold and green as it moved.  I have never seen such a large and brightly-coloured beetle in this area; it reminded me of some of the amazing bugs I saw back when I lived in Malaysia.

Today I am making a small quilt for someone who's having a baby soon.  Taking a break from sewing, I make this blog post.

These days, the cycle is resting at "good life".  I will enjoy this while I can.


06 July 2016

take two

A couple of years ago I made a series of small paintings which I called the "Multiples" (you can see them here).  Now I am revisiting that idea, with a little variation: I want to create a kind of tapestry rather than paintings per se.  

The repetitive nature of the process is very meditative and relaxing.  As I work, many permutations run through my mind; nothing is settled and the possibilities remain open at this stage.  It's a wonderful place to work from. 

stitched canvas pieces for upcoming show at Library gallery in Drumheller, AB
Stitched canvas pieces.

collagraph plates & prints for upcoming shat at the Library gallery in Drumheller, AB
Collagraph prints and plates made with white glue on matboard.

After several coloured printings the plates become very beautiful.

collagraph prints made for upcoming show at Library gallery in Drumheller, AB
More collagraphs.

printing the canvas - for upcoming show at Library gallery in Drumheller, AB
Printing a piece of stitched canvas.

All these little pieces: they are all the same, but different.  Mostly the same though.

30 June 2016

and now for something a little different

verna vogel earth paintings
The view: near Dewinton, AB

earth painting palette verna vogel
The paint: 3 black earths and 1 clay earth
collected near my easel
ground with oil medium

paintings made with earth by verna vogel
The paintings:
clay earth + oil medium on wood panel, 10x10 inches
black earth + oil medium on oil paper, 9x12 inches

20 June 2016

An unexpected turn of events - part 2

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of facilitating a week-long Campus Calgary Open Minds session with grade 4-5 students at the Arts Commons.  

Mission: to create "3D, site-specific installation artwork which will interact with the public."

campus calgary verna vogel

Response: life-sized papier-mache figures!

The theme of the class was "Inclusion".  We discussed what "inclusion" means, and ways to show inclusion in stance, facial expression and interaction among people.  We had a tour of the building, and the students made some preliminary exploration drawings - I encouraged them to come up with at least two variations on their ideas - and then we dove into working with our hands.

life-sized papier-mache figures
We began with wood armatures...

life-sized papier-mache figures
...built up the forms with cardboard...

verna vogel campus calgary
...applied papier-mache...

...and finished with paint, beads, 
sequins, feathers, yarn and string.


Such simple words to describe a series of complex tasks!  There were many elements to consider:

Anatomy - wood bones, cardboard muscle & tissue, papier-mache skin.
Simple machines - positioning arms and legs to create a dynamic figure.
Use of tools - drills, tape measures and staple guns (the papier-mache was also new to a few of the students).
Spatial thinking - scaling up 2D drawings onto the 3D armatures.
Colour - conveying emotions and ideas through colour.

This project was a first for me and I was not sure whether it would be possible to complete in a week, but in the end it all came together wonderfully.  Once again I found I could trust the students to take an idea and run with it.  

life-sized papier-mache figures

Their teacher's attitude also had a huge impact on the success of the project - she was happy to take it on even if it didn't work out, saying it would be a great experience either way.  Now that is an ideal attitude for collaboration!  

life-sized papier-mache figures

Because, you know, these art sessions really are a collaborative effort between the artist and the classroom teacher, to ensure the students have a fun and in-depth learning experience.

campus calgary verna vogel

Also invaluable was the help of various parents throughout the week, as well as the hands-on support of Arts Commons program co-ordinator.

On the last day of the week-long session, we transported the finished work to various locations around the Arts Commons building.

life-sized papier-mache figures

The environment in which the figures were placed had an impact on how they were perceived.

verna vogel campus calgarylife-sized papier-mache figures

campus calgary verna vogellife-sized papier-mache figures

life-sized papier-mache figures
life-sized papier-mache figures
campus calgary verna vogel
verna vogel campus calgary
Then they were put into the art supplies room over the weekend, giving a cheerfully cramped aspect to the small room.

life-sized papier-mache figures
campus calgary verna vogel
The following week they had their grand finale: spending a few days on stage in the lobby of the Jack Singer Concert Hall!

life-sized papier-mache figures

There were dance performances going on all week, so lots of people could see and respond to the installation.

life-sized papier-mache figures

Wrapping up their adventures at the Arts Commons, they were bundled into a truck and taken away, back to the school.

life-sized papier-mache figures

During the exodus, passers-by stopped to take photos with the colourful figures, adding a final layer of public interaction.

verna vogel campus calgary
campus calgary verna vogel
May these papier-mache figures - and their makers - continue to have interesting lives at their school and into the future beyond!

life-sized papier-mache figures

Goodbye and good luck!

10 June 2016

An unexpected turn of events

daily paintings

Last week, in the middle of my month of daily paintings, I got a call to develop and teach an intensive week-long art project for grade 4-5 students - with only 6 days to prepare!  Such short notice is not usual, but I managed to come up with a fairly large-scale project that turned out quite good.

Meanwhile, my daily paintings ground to a halt as the intensity of the class took up almost all my energy.  

These images are of prep work I did a couple of weeks ago.  I cut up a number of old paintings into pieces which I gesso'd in order to use them as grounds for future colour studies.  I did not gesso over all the pieces though; I kept some and played with various combinations.

Today was a wrap for the class, so next week I will be able to focus on my own work again.  Perhaps I'll takes some of these cut-up compositions and translate them into further studies.

verna vogel colour studies

Before getting into the studio, though, I'm going to tend to my houseplants, almost all of which sorely need repotting!  That will make a good bridge between the two intense energies: the outward energy of teaching and the inward energy of the studio.  

Somewhere in there I'll probably make a blog post about the recent class, too.  It really was a lot of fun.

Until next time,

31 May 2016

rock, paper, brushes

Daily Paintings #27-30

Yesterday I mixed linseed oil and mineral spirit with ashes and chunks of charred wood from our outdoor fire pit.  I used a rock to grind the sooty ash into the oil and spirit mixture, in a small dish.  Then I dipped in my brush and made some paintings.

verna vogel painting with soot & oil

The "paint" I made was quite crude.  Someday I'd like to try making a proper batch of paint, using the right tools and processes to get really a really fine result.  If I did I'd probably follow Dave Corcoran's process for mulling paint.
In the meantime though, the rough mixture I made was fun to work with.  

verna vogel homemade paint

verna vogel soot paintings

verna vogel ash & charcoal & oil painting

A day later it's already fairly dry, and the charcoal seems fairly bound with the oily medium to the paper and canvas I worked on.  

verna vogel charcoal paint

What started this whole business of mixing ashes with medium?  A bit I read in Victoria Findlay's book about colour, the brown & black chapter in which she describes some of the dirts that artists use to make beautiful paintings.