29 November 2013

draw 'til you drop!

This weekend I will be going to "draw 'til you drop" and I'm really looking forward to it!  I have not done life drawing (except portraits) in over 10 years, so this should be interesting.

I have prepared a number of panels - old paintings gesso'd over.  Then I tested one by doing this:

I wasn't sure if the border thing would look good - I made the border by taping off the edges before applying gesso.  This seems to work OK, with the drawing going over the border...

24 November 2013


My work has been accepted into a TREX exhibition!  I feel very honoured to have my paintings shown along with the work of several other artists in "Eye And The City", which will travel throughout southwestern Alberta for two years, beginning in mid-2014.

Shane Golby, a visual artist himself and the travelling exhibitions manager/curator, made a studio visit two weeks ago and we had a great conversation about life, art, the urban phenomenon, the universe and everything.  As a result of our conversation, I have been thinking more deeply about my work and about connections.  

A comment about the history of stitching on one of my recent blog posts underlined an idea about where my work comes from and how it connects to my life and my family's history.  I've spent the last two weeks writing and thinking a lot, and tonight have finished the final draft of a new artist statement.  Read on...

verna vogel


My childhood was spent on a farm in southwestern Ontario, but I have lived almost all my adult life in the downtown core of one city or another across Canada. Having roots in a rural environment has shaped the way I view urban life.

It can be exciting and sometimes overwhelming to be in an environment with so much sensory stimulation, especially if you are not used to that type of environment. My first impression of city life was that there is a lot of information coming in very fast! Lots of lights at night. Sirens near and far. So many layers of buildings. So many people. Everything moving all the time. That first impression has not changed much, even after many years of city living. The energy of urban places still feels exciting and irresistible to me, and this feeling continues to inspire my work.

A city is a place of concentrated human energy, full of human-made things. Even the green spaces in an urban environment are made by people, or at least they are managed, cultivated, and made accessible for almost everyone in a way that the countryside is not. The most deliberately designed urban green spaces may feature highly manicured, symmetrical rows of trees and evenly spaced flower beds. Urban grey spaces, though equally deliberately designed, do not adhere to the perfection of their architectural elevation drawings: you can find meandering footprints on straight sidewalks, random patterns of discarded chewing gum on neat squares of concrete, and other signs of resistance to the order of human design.

This type of environment, where almost everything is human-made but not entirely under human control, is quite fascinating. Why do we build cities? Why do we build them the way we do?

There is some personal history in my stitching of the canvas, too. My parents immigrated to Canada after they got married; my father is from Brasil and my mother from Holland. My father learned to farm from his father, and my mother learned to sew from her mother.

During my childhood, my father built barns and designed machinery, and my mother sewed for people. She worked at the kitchen table in the evenings, and used wonderful fabrics - silk and satin and organza, intricate laces and beads, shiny embroidery thread - to make wedding dresses. Those beautiful dresses were a big contrast to the world of livestock and crops that is a farm.

When I grew up I moved far away from my family, too. I became an artist. Sewing is part of my work, but instead of using beautiful fabrics to make wedding dresses in the midst of farm life, I use common materials - canvas, burlap, a torn sweater, bits and pieces found on the street – to make beautifully designed paintings in the midst of the an urban environment.

Although in many ways my city life is very different from my parents' farm lives, which in turn were different from their parents' lives in Holland and Brasil, you could say that our histories are stitched together.

I didn't think about it too much at first, but gradually I saw that cities are mostly built by men, and sewing is mostly done by women – and here I am, in effect, building cities with my sewing machine.

Verna Vogel, 2013

Here is the work which will go into the exhibition:

verna vogel
Fire Escape
mixed media on stitched canvas
22w x 25h inches

verna vogel
One Hundred and Eighty Degrees
mixed media on stitched canvas
32w x 21h inches

verna vogel
mixed media on stitched canvas
27w x 23h inches

verna vogel
Just Turn Your Head a Little
mixed media on stitched canvas
24w x 30h inches

21 November 2013


Doing that album cover art donation for UAS and then taking Lori's workshop right after really got a creative ball rolling!

I've spent the last few weeks working on paper.  Really enjoying the textures, the way the surface takes colour, the torn edges, and also the small size of these works.  With great originality and specificity I refer to this series as my paperworks.


I imagine they'll need to be framed to show them... I've rarely framed work so that will be part of the experiment too.


Below are some of them pinned up in the hallway for curing, which takes a week or two.  Acrylic dries fast, but also needs to cure or else the surfaces will stick to one another if they are stored for even a short time.


These small pieces have been great fun, but now I'm starting to think about working large again...

12 November 2013

08 November 2013

second winter

The fence paintings are beginning their second winter.  Here photographed today while it was snowing:

verna vogel

So far holding up very well.  I photograph them once per month or so, and had thought the elements might bring about more degeneration by now.  I am very curious and excited about documenting the process of their decay, but I begin to realize this project will take much longer than I initially thought!  

There are a few tiny cracks that don't seem to be growing any more... but other than that and a mess of spiderwebs and dead leaves collecting in the backs of the stretcher frames, they seem pretty stable.  Perhaps a future critical point will be reached and they will suddenly fall apart.  Better keep my camera ready.  :)

06 November 2013

progression of the paperworks

A few examples of progression of the paperworks.

verna vogel

First incarnation of the idea: 1. gesso the paper, 2. stitch, 3. seal, 4. paint.
Here the paint settles into the stitched surface textures.  I thought they looked a bit flat, though, so...

Second batch of explorations: 1. paint the paper, 2. seal, 3. stitch, 4. a bit more painting.
This order of events creates more depth behind the stitching.  But now there is a busy-ness that does not quite appeal, so...

verna vogel

Third trial: this time using black printing ink!
These are just begun.  Top row is simply printing ink washed into untreated paper.  Lower three are the same ink washed over pieces which I didn't like from the previous trials.  There is some subtlety of colour which does not photograph well.  I very much like the texture and flow of the ink.

I'm really enjoying these explorations.  Working on small sizes and in multiples is relaxing, gets my brain meandering.  

Sometimes it seems to me that I do lots of different things in the studio and they are not always related.  Today I thought, "well, by the time I'm in my 80's the pattern of my work will be more evident".  Already I begin to see it, dimly at first but growing clearer.