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.


Barbara Muir said...

I am always blown away by what you do, your thinking, and how much you accomplish so quickly.

Beyond amazing.


Verna Vogel said...

Thank you Barbara :) Working fast has such good energy for me - although I also really enjoy long, sustained work. I guess the two approaches create some sort of balance at the best of times.