15 August 2014

snapshots

After spending 6 months focussed on making purely abstract work, I needed a change.  So here is an about-face: working with photographic imagery again.  The "Snapshots" series continues!  

About a year ago I had some photos printed with the intention of working them into paintings, but then I lost steam on the urban stuff.  Everything just seemed to deflate and there I was, floating in a creative void.  What an anxious feeling!  I wondered if that was it; it was a good run but urban work was a thing of the past for me.  

Not so, apparently.  A new piece:

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drawing

steel sky woman
layout

steel sky woman
Intersection
acrylic and mixed-media stitching on canvas
56w x 39h inches
There are things I like and things I don't like about "Intersection", but I'm setting it aside for now.


A piece begun months ago, finished this week.  This is the only photo I have of it at the moment, skewed, taken at an angle:

steel sky woman

Hmm, not a bad composition with the strong angled lines; perhaps this will inform the next painting.


And a piece made half-heartedly last year:


Reworked:

East Meets West
acrylic and mixed-media stitching on canvas
64w x 39h inches
I'm liking "East Meets West" a lot better now.  The re-working veered away from my original intent, which is good - keeps me on my toes.  It may be finished... set aside for now.

Working in the studio this week, I realize it's been a couple of years since I felt this excited about making urban-themed paintings.  Now I am feeling eager and curious as to where these "snapshots" will lead!

And, interestingly, I also want to continue with some of the pure-abstraction ideas I worked up over the last 6 months.  First, however, this other exploration.  I think that by moving back and forth in this way the two directions will inform and expand one another.

05 August 2014

plein air road trip

My husband and I recently went on a little road trip.  We left modern technology behind, grabbed our painting kits and headed for the open prairie.

Among other things along our travels, we explored several abandoned homesteads, one-room schools and also an old fort with log buildings half sunk into the earth; we swam in a wild river with sandy banks; we saw our first rattlesnakes outside a zoo; and we discovered a high wetland area with an incredible variety and number of birds.  Also I discovered that the town of Leader, SK has a playground with really big swings in it.  Best swings I've ever played on.

And, of course, we painted the landscapes we travelled through.


verna vogel plein air painting
Alberta Landscape #77
oil on panel, 10x10 inches
On the high bluffs in the badlands above Dorothy.  About 4-6pm, hot and windy.  Small yellow butterflies which made a loud clapping sound while flying.  Scrub grasses, buffalo sage and a proliferation of low-growing cacti.


verna vogel plein air painting
Saskatchewan Landscape #1
oil on panel, 10x10 inches
Very high promontory above the convergence of the Red Deer and South Saskatchewan rivers, near Empress, a Mennonite settlement and the provincial border.  About 5-7pm, very windy.  Lichen-covered rocks and that look of softness in the distant hills.  Swam in the South Sask. prior to painting.  


verna vogel plein air painting
Saskatchewan Landscape #2
oil on panel, 10x10 inches
In the Great Sand Hills.  About 9-11am, hot.  Dead quiet apart from insect sounds and an occasional small rustle of breeze.  Barefoot in the fine, soft sand under a shady tree.  Very relaxing spot.


verna vogel plein air painting
Alberta Landscape #78
oil on panel, 10x10 inches
Above a vast flatland expanse at the edge of the Cypress Hills.  About 6-8pm, very windy, rain and thunderstorms.  I had an umbrella and crazily continued to paint, umbrella in one hand and brush in the other.  Didn't want to leave half-finished!


verna vogel plein air painting
Albert Landscape #79
oil on panel, 10x10 inches
Same location next morning.  9-11am, hot and windy.  Went exploring after painting and found a lovely treed valley full of dragonflies and butterflies.  Rested in the shade, listening to wind in the pines.


verna vogel plein air painting
Alberta Landscape #80
oil on panel, 10x10 inches
High wetlands above Bow river, near Bassano, AB.  5-9pm, not too hot and lovely evening-pink clouds.  We were looking for a road to a medicine wheel and came upon this wetland preserve maintained by Ducks Unlimited.  A lot of water out on the high prairie, and so many types of birds!  Herons, cranes, starlings, blackbirds, ducks of course, some kind of bird that sounded like a bullfrog, and various other types.  It was quite a spectacle of sound and movement.  A surprising little paradise.  


verna vogel plein air painting
Alberta Landscape #81
oil on canvas, 10x10 inches
Same wetland location as above.  This painting did not get finished.  The light was fading fast and we had some way to travel yet before settling for the night.

verna vogel plein air painting
apres-painting in the Great Sand Hills, Saskatchewan
What a wonderful, rejuvenating holiday!

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
K4A
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:


verna vogel
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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underpainting 

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.

verna vogel

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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finished
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.


steel sky woman
the view

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

steel sky woman
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...

steel sky woman
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.