This past summer I have painted a few watercolours on location at Jericho Park, Vancouver, a fascinating location of trees, light and shadows, marsh and grasses, plus a wonderful field of lupins. There is an amazing amount of wilderness in this little local park!
While there, I have been attracted to the patterns of the wild underbrush and broken branches reflecting into pools of water.
As I’m painting loose and easy, without drawing, I’m also thinking of how I can achieve all those patterns in watercolour. It is much simpler with acrylics. It seems that I’m often searching for a new way to paint the familiar.
Watercolour lends itself to the fluidity of skies and water so beautifully, allowing the colours to blend naturally! Since I really love painting the flowing evening skies as well as the dark and downy clouds, to switch to painting a profusion of patterns takes a little mind shift.
However, after visiting the Equinox Gallery at the opening of GORDON SMITH’S exhibition at the Equinox Gallery, I knew that I must plunge right into painting the patterns which I have had on the “back burner” for some time.
Gordon Smith's most recent paintings, many of them painted this past year, absolutely took my breath away!
I was actually trembling and had a glass of “ bubbly” to settle down
I have always loved Gordon’s Smith’s work. To now meet him in person again was absolutely inspiring! At the age of 94, he still paints every day, with an assistant, which is simply amazing!
He was so charming and generous with his words! Quite wonderful! What an artist! What a gentleman!
This meeting with the Master has now given me inspiration to proceed with my exploration of patterns in the park!Comment on or Share this Article →
Swimming is my Zen, as is painting.
When I swim, I get into a weightless, no gravity zone, moving my arms and legs and breathing rhythmically, listening to the bubbles gurgling as I'm exhaling.
My eyes are focused on the horizon. My body and mind are in zero gravity. My brain is empty and receptive, open to fresh ideas whether I’m swimming in the open ocean or Aquatic centre. Thoughts float around in my head. There is clarity. My receptive brain hooks a new concept from which I then begin another journey of working and thinking out the details.
It is the same in painting en plein air, alla prima ( on location, all in one go). I take a deep breath, go up to my balcony overlooking the ocean with a display of ships from exotic lands, waiting to drop off or pick up goods under a turbulent sky or a beautiful warm evening sky. I set up my paints and painting boards, wondering what end result I can achieve by just being in the Zen of the moment of painting what I feel from what I view.
When I go out to paint in Jericho Park, Vancouver, one of my favourite early morning locations, I feel like an explorer, discovering new territory of where to paint, how and what, never really knowing what I will achieve. Sometimes I’m lucky, occasionally not. The best paintings turn out from the least thinking, just doing, being in the process.
I love those moments of nothingness when time stands still and my mind is empty while my hand is painting feverishly. It is the pure Zen of painting.
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Luminary, watercolour on paper
Whether it’s visual, performing or literary arts, the method by which it is presented can be truly joyful.
The telling of a story by the use of words and narration makes all the difference.
A miniscule incident can be transformed into a Pulitzer Prize.
The method of interpreting lyrics and music by a musician can totally modify it into a masterpiece.
It’s the same with visual arts. An artist can see something quite exciting in an otherwise mundane scene, translating it into an emotional image by the use of medium, brush strokes, composition and colours.
When I look at art, any kind of art, I wonder what attracted to artist to the subject. How did the artist discover it? How did the artist see it?
When I set out to paint in Jericho Park, Vancouver, looking for some water and reed patterns, only to be disappointed that the reeds had grown too tall and the pond had shrunk, the morning light casting patterns on some cedars along the way captured my eye.
I hadn’t really noticed them before because I was busy concentrating on finding something else.
Once I really got into painting the patterns of the light on the trees in the foreground and full light on the deciduous trees in the background, the experience magically took me away to another space.
Since the light was rapidly changing, as it always does, completely altering the view, I painted feverishly with energy in order to capture the fleeting moment.
This was good because I did not have time to think, only paint what I saw, feeling the image with the brush in my hand, applying the paint on its own accord to the watercolour paper. It was an amazing sensation to paint so unconsciously without a plan!
I had to return another day to paint more of the same to fully explore the excitement!
There is something wonderful about being totally lost in the present, without thinking of the past or future.Comment on or Share this Article →
I have been invited to take part in the BATTLE OF THE GOLDEN BRUSH live painting competition on Thursday July 18, 2013, at HERITAGE HALL, 3102 Main Street at 15th Avenue, Vancouver BC V5T 3G7. Doors open at 7PM. The painting begins at 8PM.
The painting competition consists of four teams, each team of two artists with different styles; combine their skills, strokes and colors to complete a painting in 80 minutes on a chosen theme.
My partner is Rose-Marie Goodwin, an established great artist. Our theme is ROY-G-BIV (colours of the rainbow, red, orange, yellow, green,blue, indigo, violet).
At the end of the competition, the masterpieces are viewed and voted for by the audience, who will choose the winning team. The colourful works will also be auctioned off along with paintings from previous competitions.
This is quite a fun, exciting event to which I’m nervously looking forward!
Please come and bring all your friends! Eagerly looking forward to your support.
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PLENTIFUL (Jericho Park, Vancovuer)
It was Sunday morning with no deadline. I could paint as long as I wanted. No rush to go anywhere. It was great!
I returned to spot where I had painted a couple of weeks before in the lupin field near to the wild roses. I knew the lupins, even though challenging to paint, were not going to be there for too long.
I lay down in the indentation from the previous time, which I had created in the tall grass and lupins. This was now my spot. I really wanted to take it all in before I began to paint.
There was a lovely breeze blowing off the nearby shore at Jericho Beach, picking up the delicate scent of the blossoms. The birds and bees were flying around me with the cottonwood fluff swirling above.
Joggers, families, couples walked along the path, all chatting, unaware of me lying in the grass behind the wild roses. Soon the birders and floral photographers with their enormous cameras began wandering through the thicket of the flora. I felt intruded upon.
I hesitated to set up as I was relishing being here in my wonderful secret place absorbing everything - the birds, bees, and blossoms in this open field in a public park.
I gathered myself together, took a deep breath, set up my easel, watercolour paints and board and looked around for the perfect composition. Since I’m basically a landscape painter, not a floral painter, being attracted to this field of lupins was a challenge. How to paint what I felt?
I had to forgo the subject and paint the feeling. The subject became secondary. I had to paint fast as the morning light changed rapidly.
The contrast of the tall backlit cottonwood tress gave me a solid support for the light blue lupins, which was a good start, so I plunged right in.
I was painting with passion, an overwhelming awe of my surroundings, birds and buzzing bees, the scent of the wild flowers, all in the privacy of my little secret site.
Working fast, spontaneously with energy, renders a lovely loose painting but with some drawbacks. Not every en plein air, alla prima watercolour painting reaches the framing stage. Some end up being just experiments for the next one. However, the ones that turn out are greatly pleasing! It was love in the lupins!Comment on or Share this Article →
Right now there is a lot of “plein airing” going on, especially on these beautiful sunny mornings.
I haven’t started the evening balcony paintings yet, but I should have. Last night would have been a perfect time to paint the evening sky with a very dramatic cloud and colour formations, accentuated by the lights on the ships in the harbour. Unfortunately I discovered a little too late to set up in the almost darkness.
One of my favourite painting locations has been Jericho Park by the duck pond.
Lately, many of my en plein air paintings, alla prima in watercolour, have not turned out.
It was a little more exciting earlier in the spring when the foliage was lower and the water in the pond was higher.
In painting outdoors, on location, my goal is to capture the essence, the mood of what initially attracted me to this scene.
I look for something that resonates with me, whether it being a dark back lit forest with a pond in the foreground, or patterns and reeds growing on the side of the pond, or some kind of contrast which creates drama.
Last Sunday I went back to a place on the north side of the pond at Jericho Park, where the male red winged blackbirds so aggressively landed on my easel, having picked up the scent of my muffin in the baggie.
When I arrived, the water level in the pond had shrunk, the patterns of the growth in the water had changed, and I really could not find a location to provide me with a view to capture anything of interest.
Fortunately it was early enough in the morning to have time to scout around, which I did for about three quarters of an hour, not finding anything that would draw me in.
Disappointedly, I sauntered back towards another earlier site on the other side of the pond.
On my way I discovered this huge field of Lupines, with a strip of Buttercups in the distance just below the dark forest, all beautifully back lit. The lilac purple blue Lupines contrasted with the yellow green leaves and grass beneath was awesome!
Suddenly a thought occurred to me – how am I going to paint this profusion of colour and small patterns? I paint mostly large smooth patterns of clouds, sky and water, allowing the watercolour to flow and blend into another colour, not florals and little patterns!
This scene is a multitude of patterns and colours all in one!
The good thing was that I was really attracted to this excitement.
I wandered into the Lupines up to my chest in some places and found a location next to a wild Rose bush full of bees, birds and butterflies.
But first, I took a few reference photos to get an idea of composition.
I placed my easel in such a way that the sun would not sneak up on me and shining on my paper at a crucial moment.
By the time I had set up, feeling really smug about this wonderful sight, apprehension set in.
Where to start and how to paint it - do I paint wet in wet, wet on dry, a combination of both or? This was the biggest challenge of all.
Since I don’t expect all my en plein air, alla prima paintings to succeed to the framing stage, I take the risk to paint intuitively, energetically, without sketching, to get it down fast. Speed is the key to freshness! I also happen to like experimenting to see what I can discover.Comment on or Share this Article →
Early one Tuesday morning I went out to paint en plein air, alla prima in Watercolours at Jericho Park, which has wonderful ponds, reeds and marsh. It is so tranquil with all the birds chirping and fluttering about. It is one of my favourite spots to paint in the morning with beautiful back lighting.
This particular morning I had a bit more time to look for a different point of view of the ever changing marsh. I stopped in various locations to look over my shoulder to find a view that would appeal to me.
On one such place, I stopped just for a moment, with my painting back pack which my friend Marney-Rose gave me many years ago, my box of watercolour paper, paints and tripod easel, which I carried under my arm.
Suddenly a female Red Winged Blackbird landed on my tripod which surprised me as I had only stopped for a moment. I thought it must be hungry, having picked up the scent of my banana walnut muffin in a sealed baggie in my pocket on top of the camera.
I had to forego taking a photo and opted to feed the female with my other hand. It bravely flew over to my feeding hand and pecked away at the small bits of muffin, then flew away.
Later I stopped at a bench where a male Red Winged Blackbird came hopping along looking for a hand out. It also flew up to my hand to peck away at the crumbs but left a big chunk which turned out to be piece of walnut. I discovered he didn’t like walnuts.
Back to the painting. I found a spot on the other side of the pond in a precarious location. One of the jobs of a creative artist is to think of ways to overcome obstacles and challenges.
The objective was to get the picture I wanted to paint. Sitting down was not an option as there was no place to sit and the view could not be seen from the angle that attracted me to this location in the first place.
Setting up the tripod easel was the biggest challenge, followed by setting up the paints and a place to stand without slipping down the bank under the log.
As always with en plein air painting, I see what I’m attracted to and what I want to paint.
The big conundrum for me is to stick with what I see and feel without being distracted by all the other stuff in addition to the changing light.
Some artists really enjoy working from reference photos as the picture is framed in the photo. This is all very good but there is no atmosphere, fresh air, birds chirping and buzzing about. I too take a reference photo for discipline and staying focused when I’m painting.
Occasionally I touch up in the studio but I can get caught up beginning to add too much information. I really like to keep my en plein air, alla prima (on location, all in one go) work nice and loose. That is where the freedom and joy in nature comes in.Comment on or Share this Article →
I took my watercolours, paper and easel, as well as all the other gear for en plein air painting along to the Portico Gallery in Squamish, where I was to “freshen up” my collection of art work.
The #99, Sea to Sky highway passing through Squamish to Whistler, Canada, is one of the most scenic routes imaginable. The highway is carved out of the side of the mountain with a dramatic drop down to Howe Sound, with very few Points of View along the way as there is not much space available for stopping in this section.
To try to paint a painting or two required some careful driving and vigilant viewing of where to safely pull over, if there was such a place, and still maintain my speed. The drivers on this highway are sometimes a bit rushed to reach their destination be it Squamish the Outdoor Adventure capital of Canada or Whistler Mountain, rated the number one ski mountain in North America.
The weather was a bit overcast, dull, but not turbulent or sunny. My favourite skies happen to be the big moody ones. So I was keeping my eyes open for some suitable scenery to paint instead.
I finally I saw my picture around the curve of a cliff, between Lions Bay and Porteau Cove, and the ability to safely pull over in a small patch of dirt on the side of the road next to a 45 degree cliff. The challenge now was from where to paint as there was no flat ground for the vista I wanted and I did not want to make a spectacle of myself on the side of the cliff in clear view of the oncoming traffic going south to Vancouver. I was concealed from the north going traffic by the outcropping of the cliff, which was a good thing.
There was no option to set up my easel and barely enough space to sit and set down my paints so I opted for painting Toni Onley style.
I found a little crevice for the water container which I braced with a couple of rocks. My palette was perched on a few more rocks to maintain a slight level at a 20 degree slope.
I placed my painting board on my lap held by my left hand.
This set up appeared to be comfortable enough with my feet bracing against a bigger rock. All the other gear such a wiping cloth, tissue, brushes, sketch book etc, were all supported by some rock or another to prevent them from rolling down the cliff. Fortunately it wasn’t windy as it can often be in Howe Sound, one of North America’s favourite wind surfing locations.
I love painting en plein air, alla prima (on location all in one go). Now the decision was to draw on the painting board or not to draw after having drawn my value sketch in the sketch book.
Since there was so much sky, so much water and mountains, I thought perhaps I better draw a few lines to keep myself focused. The Balcony Skies form my balcony in town are pure brush strokes, no drawing on the paper. However, I do draw a rough outline of the ships in the harbour.
As I’m so used to “going for it” without drawing much, if any, I struggled with sticking to those few lines on the paper. Although I had my value sketch, but when I see that big wonderful space out there, I did not want to be restricted. I just wanted to make marks with my big red brush which I had purchased from Alvaro Castagnet some time ago.
The painting turned out all right but I think next time I will just “go for it” which takes a little practice to get into it again, as I don’t paint out doors much in the winter. I may loose a few paintings but this method brings out the gambler in me.
Far Side, Sea to Sky Highway
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Sometimes an unexpected event pops up in one’s life that makes one re-evaluate the purpose of one’s direction. I know there must be some quote from some wise person who says it better. But for now, this is where I’m at after my sister Erna passed away, quite unexpectedly.
My only sister Erna lived in Chilliwack, about 1 ½ hours drive from where I live in Vancouver. She hated travelling on the Port Mann Bridge, and so did I. So we had wonderful long conversations on the phone on Wednesday or Thursday mornings when her husband was out swimming and my husband was out on some volunteer business.
We were connected, of the same blood, being from the same parents, born in the same country, Estonia. We could talk about everything and nothing and laugh at life’s idiosyncrasies. Erna was solid, to say the least. She was the pillar of strength with her good nature, kindness and generosity which touched hundreds of people judging from the overflowing crowd at the memorial service. She was the Be-er where I am the Doer, always striving to achieve something.
Erna’s sudden death really knocked me down. My mind was in a fog for 2 months. To make matters worse, I fractured my little left toe, twice, by absentmindedly walking into a heat register, followed by dropping a painting board on it 10 days later, even though I was very careful! But then I thought that it could be worse.
Everything outside of family became meaningless. All I wanted to do was to make stronger family connections with my immediate family and my sister’s family. I could not go into my studio. In fact it repelled me. I had lost my sense of purpose in art. All the completed work, the paints, watercolour paper, blank canvasses, notes, sketches, no longer had any value for me.
One day I concluded that I’m still alive and healthy with deep feelings and passion for art, painting as well as writing. I must pick myself up and get myself back into my painting saddle again and go on, which was so hard to do.
In order to get back into it again, I went downstairs into my studio and started tidying up, clearing out and reorganizing stuff in hopes of connecting with something - anything!
My favourite time to paint is in the afternoon and evening, while listening to jazz on Tonic on CBC Radio 2 or World music played from the heart. I hear stories about jazz musicians reminding me of visual artists. I hear about the musicians determination, how they got their “breaks” unafraid of being pure and original. This was so inspirational!
Thank goodness for music, the language of the world. Art began coming together again for me, planning for shows and coaching and submitting to competitions being mindful to maintain a balanced life with family, friends and colleagues, none of whom I could do without. Now I embrace all again in one BIG hug - family, friends and art.Comment on or Share this Article →
It just dawned on me the other day, when I renewed my Estonian passport, why I must paint Acrylic Hard Edge Abstract paintings, alternating with loose fluid Watercolour Skies.
It isn’t because I’m undecided. It is because I’m always in 2 places in the world. My feet are planted firmly here in Canada and my heart is in Eesti (Estonia) where I was born.
I long to be in the little country with the cleanest air in the world and a population of 1.29 million people, discussing “stuff” with my many cousins. Whenever I read about Eesti’s achievements, I am so proud to be Estonian from the country that leaped into the 21st century in one decade. However, I live in Vancouver, Canada, near my offspring, whom I deeply love.
The lyrics to the Estonian anthem, Mu Isamaa, mu Õnn ja Rõõm, bring tears to my eyes. They are so touching. Translated into English it is My fatherland, my joy and happiness, how beautiful you are. I shall never find another place in this huge wide world which could be as dear to me, as you, my Fatherland.
Back to my painting acrylic abstract and watercolour skies.
The watercolour skies are purely from my heart.
I’m overwhelmed by the open sky with its cloud formations, shifting over English Bay . When I paint these, I take a deep breath, wet my paper, and load my brush with watercolour paint, working very quickly to capture the moment, allowing the colours to blend, before the paper dries and light changes. It is working with nature, of which I have absolutely no control. I love the feeling of floating aimlessly.
The Non-Objective works are purely from my imagination, cerebral. The Structural collection is somewhat influenced by our Vancouver architecture.
The acrylic abstracts need to be thought out, planned in my sketchbook, measured carefully on canvas, taping and sealing the edges, and painting solid pure colour without blending or mixing. This very meticulous process provides me a sense of power and orderliness and hopefully control over my destiny.
This makes me two sided, inside (emotional) and outside, or should I say “upside”, from my head, my imagination.
The time has come to accept this as it is without justification, with 2 sets of brushes, 2 sets of paints, 2 sets of support.
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