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.

14 April 2016

reading and writing

Portraits I made over the last few weeks, friends and also some new people I met.

verna vogel portrait

portrait of Elise Melanson

verna vogel portrait

portrait of Tara Gish

portrait of Baby June at 6 months old

verna vogel portrait

portrait of Andrew Saliken

verna vogel portrait

verna vogel portrait

portrait of Uli Osterman

 The type of art I made while travelling - quick portraits and simple landscapes - has rejuvenated me on some level.

Today I spend time reading and writing; among other things I have been immersing myself in the ideas of Oliver Sacks.  His brilliant scientific mind combined with his very humanist sensibility appeals to me, and he is able to present complex ideas and information in a very accessible way that makes for exciting reading.

portraits by verna vogel

I begin to take notes mainly in order to remember some of the details, as this is a library book which must be returned, and find that my note-taking has a secondary effect of leading to more ideas and connections in my own mind.


11 April 2016

Travellin' art-makin' Lady

I've been travelling!  First out to the west coast, then east into the prairie, with a week between.

1. Before my Travels:

I prepped some grounds on Arches 140lb watercolour paper for my friend Russell Mang and I to make some collaborative works.

one side

verna vogel calgary artist
the other side

I worked a bit more on a few of the small oil paintings which have been in progress since July 2015...

small oil paintings

verna vogel calgary artist

… and made some small oil studies on primed paper, about 10x11 and 12x12 inches:

verna vogel calgary artist

2. During my Travels:

Plein air painting with Ross Melanson at Wakamow Valley in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

done over Ross's old painting
inspired by Ross's painting style

a more typical-for-me landscape painting

I also hiked, made meals for & with friends, had good conversations and enjoyed the company of various pets - also made portraits of friends both East and West, which I will show you in a separate blog post later.

3. After my Travels:

The week of my return, I worked a shift at the art-supply store, taught a couple of  classes at Arts Commons, and went to the KOAC Art Centre Gala, where my painting along with many others were auctioned to raise funds for the Centre.

arts commons
many colourful prints at Arts Commons

verna vogel calgary artist

arts commons

KOAC Arts Centre
"Skyline II" oil on stitched canvas, 2012
auctioned at KOAC Fundraiser Gala

Finally, yesterday I worked in the studio all day!  Painting on stretched canvas:

And small studies on paper:



and a couple of new studies begun

With only a week between the two trips, it felt like a lot of moving around for this artist who is usually quite grounded in one place.  But returning from my travels I feel quite rejuvenated!