November 10, 2016: I was interviewed by Daily Paintworks as their Spotlight Artist for a week! Read my interview on the DPW News blog!

Ongoing: my 8x8" original oil paintings are available exclusively at Darrell Bell Gallery in Saskatoon. For a limited time several of my large oil paintings are also available at
their new street front gallery on 21st Street (formally Lifestyles By Darrell Bell Gallery).

Ongoing: a selection of my larger work is available at The Black Spruce Gallery at Northside on Highway 2 just before the turn to Christopher Lake.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Crevice- A Comparison

                                               Before                                 After
 The Crevice
10 x 24"
acrylic on canvas
© Nicki Ault, 2010 
sold

Before the Open Studio at the end of November I did a bit of tweaking and one of the paintings I fiddled with was this one, The Crevice. The bottom always read a little dark, so I tried to create a bit more depth by making a stronger suggestion of the fungi that were deeper in the crevice. I lightened up the bluish fungi as well and now I wonder if I did too much. I will have to look when I go back to the studio. I think this photo is a bit on the light side, so it is playing with my memory a bit.

I have been painting, but I am working on something I can't show for awhile. It is a piece that is really stretching me out of my comfort zone- big time. I think I have already put more hours into this than anything I have ever done. I am extremely excited about this project, so I am having a hard time not writing about it, but patience is a virtue, so I will keep my trap shut. As much as I would love for this piece to be mind bogglingly brilliant, I think at this point I will just settle with not completely embarrassing myself! (hint... because it is so not a landscape I am painting).



Friday, December 24, 2010

I Wish You Well

Santa's Snack Christmas 2007
chocolate milk, cookies and apples

Whatever you believe, I wish you peace, love, happiness and safe travels. I wish you time with those that mean the most to you. I wish you a warm place to rest and good food to nourish you.

I wish you well.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fire In The Belly II

Fire In The Belly II
24 x 36"
oil on canvas
© Nicki Ault, 2010 
sold

I finally got a decent picture of this painting, which now feels finished. I think the colours are a bit brighter in person, but overall this is pretty accurate. This tree jumped right out at me when I was painting en plein air at Kenderdine Campus this past August. I was merrily working on my little board (the one that was not taking the paint well at all... read this post to find out more) when for some reason I looked to my right and saw the most spectacular sight. The sun was hitting this tree so that the exposed resin, sap and raw wood were lit up and glowing. It took my breath away. I had to stop and take photos! I was so excited that I started working on a canvas in the studio that evening which raised a controversy you can read about here. 

I have had some mixed reactions to this piece. A couple of people have found it to be scary, which surprises me because I saw the tree as a beautiful treasure and I tried to paint it that way. I do agree that the composition is maybe a bit "in your face", but at the same time I think that adds to it's power and impact. I have decided that I am happy with it, and that is all I have the energy to care about right now. I am thrilled with the brushstrokes- I tried to make each one interesting and fresh. This painting doesn't have the same intense, smoldering feeling that "Fire In The Belly I" had, but I was never going for that anyway. The underpainting for this piece is similar though! 

My opening at Moka Coffee Bar was a wonderful, intimate evening with friends and family stopping by. Unfortunately the weather didn't co-operate, so several people decided not to venture out. And I think they were smart- the roads were not particularly safe. Thanks to everyone for your well wishes!  

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dappled Light

Dappled Light
40x30"
acrylic and oil on canvas
© Nicki Ault, 2010 
sold

This painting is at Moka right now. It is hanging near some tables right by the front window and let me tell you, looking at this painting is the polar opposite of what you see when you look out that shop window... It is cold here!!! And the snow! Brrrrr!

As I worked on it, this painting took on many forms. It began as an acrylic painting, the horizon line was lower, at one time there was a birch tree near the middle and a few more small dead trees cutting into the open space, the top left corner had no branches so it felt wide open, the grass at the shoreline was taller and more straight across, and the colouring of the entire painting was completely different! There were many smaller changes made besides the larger ones just mentioned--- this one was a work in progress for a very long time! It feels great to have it at a place I am happy with... it was a long time coming and I wasn't entirely sure I would get it there.

My opening is tomorrow evening and I am looking forward to visiting with some friends that said they planned to attend. I'm not expecting much in the way of sales as the pieces are quite large and there are only seven of them, but I am happy to have my work in a place that can be viewed and enjoyed (I hope) by many.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Big Day Tomorrow


Here it is.... the invitation to my show at Moka Coffee Bar! My most excellent brother-in-law helped me out once more. What would have taken me hours and hours to pull together, he did in a matter of minutes. His super cool program picked the colours right out of the painting which we then used for the other areas of the invitation. I was not hip to this kind of technology so I was quite dazzled by the end of our design session.

If you happen to be in Saskatoon in the next two months check it out and let me know what you think. More specifically if you are here on Sunday, December 12 stop by and say "hi" at the opening. I'll be there from 6:30-8:30 p.m. trying desperately, and probably unsuccessfully, to avoid the peanut butter pie and yummy fancy coffees! 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Kingfisher Trail, Waskesiu

Kingfisher Trail, Waskesiu
22x 28
oil on canvas
© Nicki Ault, 2010
sold 

I did this painting last month for my upcoming show at Moka Coffee Bar. I took the reference photo for it on the September long weekend when we hiked the trail with our kids. It was a fantastic afternoon- some really great memories were made that day. I'm happy with the way this painting turned out. I tried to stay loose and free with the underbrush and foliage. I love some of the marks in those areas. The whites of the birch do come across quite white in the photo, but in reality you would see soft pinks, blue grays and soft purples in there. I actually may switch up my plan for Moka. Initially I had planned for the work to be entirely tree related, but the woman who approached me at the Open Studio is organizing a group show for the new year with the theme of trees. Now I believe I will make the Moka collection a bit more diverse and keep some of my tree canvases available in case I end up participating in her show.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Upswept Sky

Upswept Sky
(shown above after 20 minutes)
8x8"
oil on cradled panel
© Nicki Ault, 2010
For Twenty Minute Challenge

I needed a break a couple of weeks ago from the focus on larger work for my upcoming solo show, so I pulled out a little panel and did a quick start on a sky for 20 minutes. I highly recommend this exercise for anyone. I worked on it again the next day and below is the finished piece.

Upswept Sky
8x8 
oil on cradled panel
© Nicki Ault, 2010
finished

The Open Studio was busy! I met some really great people and received some extremely positive feedback about my work. Several new names are now on my contact list for anything that I do in the future and I was approached by a gallery/store owner to be part of a group show in the new year with the theme of "Trees" . Apparently she has done this the past couple of years with artists but this year participation is by invitation only. I also sold ten paintings off my "grid" so that was exciting. With eleven artists sharing the studio and invitations going out to all of their contacts I definitely felt like I hardly knew anyone that came through. I felt quite shy and awkward so I will have to work on that for next year. And the big question on my mind that entire day was, why on earth did I wear high heeled boots and contact lenses??? Did I learn nothing from my show last year? And why did I not do the math to realize that unlike an art opening which is usually 1.5-2 hours long, the Open Studio was, in fact, 6 hours long!!?? Standing on concrete floors, I might add! I was so tired when I got home that I fell asleep twice between 6 and 9 p.m. at which point I just went to bed. 

As a side note, I was very proud of my boys for coming to the Open Studio. They didn't want to and resisted when I mentioned it. I was quite surprised and, I will admit, a little hurt. After a bit more talk it came out that they didn't want to go because they were afraid we would be in another car accident which is what happened a year ago after my last opening. My heart dropped when they brought this up. I was shocked that they had made such a strong connection between the two events. We talked a bit more and they asked if we could take a different road if they decided to come and my littlest said, "Mommy if we are in another car crash this time, you won't do anymore art shows, will you?" Bless them both. My husband brought them right at the beginning of the day and I am proud they were so brave.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Open Studio Tomorrow


I just got home from putting the last touches on my studio space. It looks really good and I took photos to share with you. If you happen to live in or near Saskatoon swing by and say "hi". All 11 artists will be there from 11-5 and we'd love to show you our work and where we create it. I'm nervous and excited at the same time. It's my first Open Studio and I want it to go well... I am hoping I will get a real positive response to my work from all the artsy types that may come through. I really want them to like me... sales schmales... I just want to be liked!


Standing in the doorway looking into my space.
You can see the wonderful sculptures of another artist
in the space just beyond mine...


Starting at my shelves and working clockwise around my workspace...
 

 
From the far end of the studio this wall looks pretty dramatic...


Standing by the sculptors space looking back at mine
toward the door where I took the first photo...


A close up of my "grid" of small work...


 
My drafting table/desk area with my awesome
Mastercraft rolling work station...


And finally a close-up shot of the top of the work station.


That's all folks! I have a bit more work to do for tomorrow and then I am hitting the sheets!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

River Fire

River Fire
4.75 x 4.75"
acrylic on paper
© Nicki Ault, 2010 
private collection

In my previous couple of posts you saw the series of three abstract reflections that I painted for a housewarming gift for a dear friend. I painted three others around the same time and "River Fire" is one of them. I think it is my favorite of all six - not sure why, maybe just because it is quite different from any other reflection I have done. The darkest marks you see are more purpley than they come across on the screen. I am pleased with the energy in this one. I put it in a black frame today and it looks great! Really dramatic.

It has a been a crazy few weeks getting ready for all of the art events that are happening right away. Tomorrow is the opening of the small works juried show called "Little Gems" in which I have three paintings. There are about 40 local artists participating and it is a fundraiser for the Food Bank. Then on Sunday it is our Open Studio, so I have been madly wiring, hanging, organizing, tweaking, varnishing, framing for that. I will have photos to show you of my space soon. I'm very excited to be a part of this- it's like a dream come true! A reporter and cameraman came today from Shaw TV Channel 10, so tomorrow a short piece will run approx. every 45 minutes in a continuous loop throughout the day.

I will quickly sigh with relief after the weekend, but then I will have a shot of espresso and start pulling together work for my solo show at Moka which goes up Dec. 8!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Joy of Another

The Joy of Another
4.75 x 4.75"
acrylic on paper
© Nicki Ault, 2010 
private collection

Here is the last painting in the series of three I gave my friend. This one is a little different from the others, but the colour palette was basically the same. This one had a lot more movement in it and to me it feels like happy energy. The title comes from me contemplating my friend's family again and thinking of her other true love- her daughter. This little girl exudes pure joy and innocence. She is kind, thoughtful, artistic and has this truly happy energy. She lights up a room and she is only in Grade Three! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that one of my boys will marry her!



The Strength of One
The Joy of Another
Three Loves 
© Nicki Ault, 2010 
private collection
 
Theses are the three pieces all together. Again, sorry the picture quality is not the best. They are brighter than these in reality. Thanks for stopping by to have a look.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Strength Of One

The Strength of One
4.75 x 4.75"
acrylic on paper
© Nicki Ault, 2010
private collection

This is the second in the little series I painted for my friend as a house warming gift. (Theses photos are dark. Curses! Why did my camera have to conk out? It has not been the same since it was fixed). Anyway, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, my friend is madly in love with her family. After she chose these three paintings the titles came easily as I looked at the images and thought of her. I named this painting "The Strength of One" as I thought of her love for her unique, clever, wonderful son. He is a miracle, as all children are, but when pregnant with him, my friend's water broke at 19 weeks and he was born at 24 weeks. The strength and determination he has shown in his short life so far is quite remarkable. He is a glorious, hilarious, healthy Grade 5 boy and he is the apple of my friend's eye.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Three Loves

Three Loves
4.75 x 4.75"
acrylic on paper
© Nicki Ault, 2010
private collection

My days have been so busy getting work ready for the Open Studio, the "Little Gems" juried show and my solo show that there has been no time for blogging. Well, there probably has been time somewhere between midnight and 7 a.m., but I decided to sleep!

The above painting is one in a series of three little pieces I did this fall for one of my very best friends. She and her family moved into a new house over the summer and I decided I'd like to give her paintings as a house warming gift. She is incredibly supportive and enthusiastic in regards to my artwork and has even purchased 5 of my paintings over the last few years. The sad part (for me) is that before they moved they lived right across the street from us! Now they are in a new neighborhood and I miss her terribly. What a difference it made to my day even if  I only waved at her in the morning as we were getting into our cars. We won't lose touch, but it is different.

I actually made 6 paintings this size and let her pick her favorite three to put in frames I bought at Ikea this past summer. Once she chose the ones she wanted I titled them so they had some relevance to her. She is a real home-body and adores her husband, son and daughter. I named this one "Three Loves" because of her true love for each of these people. I'll show you the rest of this series over the next few days. 

Hope everyone is well! Winter hit us hard in Saskatchewan yesterday! Brrrr!   

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kickin' It Old School

 You Can Go Back
16x20"
acrylic on canvas
(created en plein air)
© Nicki Ault, 2009 
sold

About two weeks ago I received an email from Judy Adamson, an artist in Wales, who writes an informative blog regarding topics in art and design. She had recently been contemplating why some artists prefer to stick with traditional methods of producing art as opposed to using digital tools. She approached seven traditional artists to give their reasons why they have not made the change and I was one of them. To see the article and the responses click here.

To be honest, I have not given digital art much thought. I don't have a great program to use and in many ways I feel I am just scratching the surface with paint- especially in oils. Maybe the time will come when I want to dabble digitally- I'm certainly not against it and believe it is growing and growing as a strong and distinct art in it's own right, especially with all of the amazing, rapid advances in technology. I would enjoy the opportunity to sit with a digital artist to see their process and watch how they create. It would be quite fascinating to me.

For now in my own practice, however, I'm going to keep kickin' it old school!

Thanks to Judy for including me in this interesting discussion. I sent her the above image of a painting I did last year to include with my part of the article. (Click here for the original post that went with this painting- turns out it was one of the first few posts I ever made to my blog and fun for me to look back on).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Across The Lake

Across The Lake
30x24
oil on canvas
© Nicki Ault, 2010
sold

This is an attempt to take my little stormy skies to a larger format. A little dramatic and a lot fun! There are approximately three other attempts at skies (in acrylic) under this final one, the first of them done years ago. None of them ever felt right and they all basically stunk. With this one I feel more satisfied and like I might finally let this canvas be done. I especially like the marks in the water; they went in quick and I didn't fuss with them, so they are a very direct and immediate representation of my energy as I was painting that day. Before I began painting this I covered the existing sky with a solid coat of Cadmium Orange, and I left little jolts of it popping through here and there.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Embrace Life - An Anniversary of Sorts

video
"Embrace Life-
always wear your seat belt"


Today is a significant day for me as an artist and also for my family. It marks two things: 1) the one year anniversary of the opening of my first gallery show which was a dream come true and 2) the one year anniversary of the traumatic car accident that was a nightmare come true.

I wanted to share this beautiful and powerful commercial with anyone that may come across my blog with the hopes that it will reinforce the importance of wearing your seat belt. If you have children please make sure they are in the proper car seats/ boosters for their size, weight and age. Doing so is your best defense if you are ever in an accident. While it doesn't guarantee a positive outcome it certainly increases the odds. In our case, wearing seat belts prevented a traumatic experience from being devastating. My head can't even go there to imagine the injuries, or worse, if we weren't wearing them.

Embrace life, it can change in an instant.

Nicki

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Enchanted

Enchanted
24x36"
oil on canvas
© Nicki Ault, 2010 
sold

Another large painting for my show at Moka coming up in December. This painting was thoroughly enjoyable to paint. Everything just flowed and felt right. Once again, I had difficulty photographing it, so I hope the depth of the forest shows well enough.

Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for looking at my blog!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Good News

Cool Blue Sky
7x7
acylic on canvas
© Nicki Ault, 2008

I have shown you these three paintings before, but I am doing so again because recently I decided to submit them to a "small works" juried art show. It is taking place the same weekend (Nov. 27,28) as the Open Studio, so it will be busy, but I decided I wanted to be part of it because it is a fundraiser for the Food Bank. And you never know what a little extra exposure could do. Anyway, I was allowed to submit three pieces and all three were accepted! I guess there will be about 40 artists participating and I am sure all of the work will be quite varied.   

Out On Valley Road
10x10
acrylic on canvas
© Nicki Ault, 2010
private collection

At the end of the summer, I was disappointed to receive a rejection letter from a public gallery in town, but I will try again. In hindsight I think my proposal was lame and that I didn't receive the best advice in how to write it. Proposals are not something I know much about and I think I need to learn how to play the game with a bit more of the artsy lingo.

  Spring On Janzen Road
10x10"
acrylic on canvas
© Nicki Ault, 2010
sold

At any rate, I am pleased to have had success with this application and hope the show raises lots of money for the Food Bank.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sunbeam On Moss Bed

Sunbeam On Moss Bed
8x8
oil on MDF board
© Nicki Ault, 2010

Sunbeam On Moss Bed
8x8
oil on MDF Board
© Nicki Ault, 2010
finished?

I needed to go small the other day at the studio. Everything I have been working on for my upcoming show has been quite large. It sounds strange, but I wanted to do something loose, quick and free... so I went small! Actually I think the reason I went small was because I decided to make it a "Twenty Minute Challenge" and that always makes me work a bit quicker. The top image is how far I got when my handy-dandy Ikea timer rang at twenty minutes in. The second image is the (possibly) finished painting after I put in about another hour or so. My apologies both photos are not the best quality. My camera has not been the same since I had it repaired.

Thanks to everyone who has been leaving such wonderful and supportive comments lately. Without boring you with the details, I could really use some positive energy in my life these days and it gives me such a boost to get feedback on my posts. I'm sorry I haven't been that good at reciprocating; I'll get back on track soon. Thanks again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Backlit Birch

Backlit Birch
24x36"
acrylic and oil on canvas
© Nicki Ault, 2010
sold

Ahhhhh, trees. I can't get enough of them! Here is another of the large canvases I have been working on this fall. I really enjoyed it and will experiment with back-lighting again. I still have not worked out the best way to photograph these larger canvases- they are definitely more difficult than the 7x7 size I am used to. At any rate, this picture was close enough.

Guess what I did tonight? Shoveled snow! Yup, snow! And a lot of it! I am not mentally ready for this!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lily Pads At Spruce River

Lily Pads At Spruce River
24 x 36"
oil on canvas
© Nicki Ault, 2010
sold
 
Here is one of the large paintings I have done this fall at the studio. I don't think the colour here is entirely accurate, I'll have to check when I go back to the studio. I'm pretty sure the orange/rust colours at the top are not that obvious in reality. Anyway, it's a bit of a different composition, which I always like. There were way more lily pads and grasses flowing in the reference photo, but it was too much, so I did some big-time editing. These lily pads were different than most I've seen. They were very pointy as opposed to the round floppy ones you think frogs might sit on.

My camera is fixed, but I am having a difficult time getting decent photos of these larger pieces. The walnut alkyd I have been using as a medium dries to a bit of a gloss finish, so the glare is really bad when taking a photo (even without a flash). Any tips?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Camera troubles

The lens on my camera got jammed the other day so I have been unable to take any photos of the work I have done at the studio. I just picked it up from the repair shop late yesterday afternoon and it seems all of the settings have gone back to the factory ones. I will fiddle with it this weekend and hopefully get it to where I like it.

 River Thawing
7x7 
acrylic on canvas
© Nicki Ault, 2010
BEFORE

 River Thawing
© Nicki Ault, 2010 
AFTER
sold

 In the mean time, I am re-posting a painting I did en plein air this past spring as well as the final, tweaked version which has never before been on the blog. After receiving a bit of feedback on the original piece I decided to make the foreground ice more interesting and I also pulled the right hand side of the ice up ever-so-slightly to make the angle less intense and to keep the viewer from feeling like they were sliding off the edge. I was looking up river while I painted this, so my eye saw the shoreline at an angle. Someone did mention to me that the water line should be level, but I think the angle makes it more visually dynamic- so it stayed.

I have to say I liked the original piece and wasn't sure if I wanted to change it, but after sitting with it awhile, I agreed that the ice wasn't interesting enough. So if I liked the painting before, I love it now! I feel excited when I see the "after" picture! Thanks to all who offered feedback 6 months ago!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Underpainting? Finished Painting?

Fire In The Belly I
acrylic on canvas
22x28"
under painting vs. finished painting
-a controversy!!!
sold

In my last post I mentioned that I had started a painting in the studio at Emma Lake for which Bark Study was an experiment. I had taken a photo of a fantastic tree on the same day that I wasted a ton of time painting on the wrong (untreated) side of the board. I was very excited about finding this dramatic tree and the idea I had for painting it. At any rate I began my under painting as I usually do, with a wash of strong colour straight out of the tube and then I began laying in the composition with quick, loose strokes. I had just begun my next stage which was the grays you see here. All of this initial work was done in acrylic and my plan was to use oil paint after the ground work was done. At this point, however, some of the new people I met at this workshop wandered by with a bottle or two of wine and I got severely sidetracked! It was probably 9:00 p.m. and I had been in a bit of a funk all day because it was my fifteenth wedding anniversary and I was feeling guilty for not being home. Needless-to-say wine with these new, hilarious friends seemed to be just what the Doctor ordered! My painting ground to a halt for the night leaving my work just as you see it above. 

Fast forward to the next day.

After painting "Feathery Pine", "By The Lake" and "Bark Study" I was on my way back to the studio with "Bark Study" sandwiched between two cafeteria trays (so as not to get wet from the rain) when the instructor and a couple fellow students stopped me in my tracks with their excitement over the painting they saw on my easel. I had no idea what they were talking about until I remembered my "under painting" from the night before. As it turned out, that is the one they were talking about. They loved it! They all thought it was a finished piece and didn't want me to touch it. I was flabbergasted and I still am to this day. That evening at the critique the general consensus was that I should leave it as is. What the %@*!!! (pardon my censored "French") I am still baffled two months later. Maybe I'm troubled by this because I know what I wanted to do with the painting and this is not it. Maybe it's because it looks nothing at all like anything I have ever done before. Maybe because it is simply doesn't look finished. I am still trying to sort it all out. One lady even said that, for this piece, she would pay twice what I would normally charge for a canvas this size. 

I get that I am always being told to loosen up, to be freer, to get rid of my inhibitions and so maybe this is just another way of people saying that. But I have been messed up for two months wondering what the reaction to this painting truly says about what people think- or don't think- about my art. I've stewed about it for many hours. I don't want to always play it safe as an artist, but calling the above a finished piece of work just may be too far out of my comfort zone.

I decided to leave this painting the way it is as I continue to ponder what it all means. I have since created a new painting of the same subject on a larger canvas; one that is "finished" in my mind. I'll show it to you very soon. But for now I ask you wise blogging friends, what do you think? Is this an under painting or a finished painting?????

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bark Study

Bark Study
(for Fire In The Belly)
8x8
oil on board

After I completed "By The Lake" (seen in my last post)- or at least did as much as I was going to do outside- I did a quick (and I am mean quick) study of bark using rich, thick, not fully mixed smudges of paint. I had done an under painting the night before and wanted to play with this idea I had for what I might do over top. It was so fun playing with the oils this way. I wanted it to look rough and chunky, which it does, I think. The colours are intense, especially the oranges, which I wanted. Sometimes I am shocked at the colours I see in the forest. I mean, really you just think green, green and more green, but if you get looking around and what you find is quite amazing. In this instance I had taken a photo (the day I painted on the wrong side of the board- good times) of a tree near me that was lit up by a sun beam. The fantastic part was that the lit area was a section where bark had pealed off revealing this raw, burnt orange, glowing sap covered area. It was specatcular! I have been working on a large canvas at the studio back at home with this as the subject.

I mentioned this was a quick study and that is: a) because working fast keeps me loose and b) because this was approaching...

It was a deceiving storm... it looked like I had more time than I did! When it hit, it hit hard. The rain was pouring down and erased any view of the lake past the beach!  


I ran to the cafeteria building and waited it out. The downpour lasted about 15 minutes and afterward there were rivers running down the paths of the campus! When it stopped raining I had to sandwich my painting between two cafeteria trays to get it back to the studio because there was so much water dripping off the trees. I do love a good storm, and a good adventure.

Friday, October 1, 2010

By The Lake

By The Lake
16x20
oil on canvas

After I did "Feathery Pine", which I posted the other day, I decided to take this new brush and toned down palette to a larger format. I didn't use as limited a palette as I did in the study- I think I was up around 10 colours (including white). I really enjoyed working on this one and tried to keep things loose- click on the image to get a better idea of the brush work. I'm sure it could be looser, but it was an accomplishment for me. It's one of the larger pieces I have tackled en plein air, but it was definitely manageable. There was a time when 16x20 seemed so large to me, but now that I have done a few 30x40's this size is no longer as intimidating. When I got it back to the studio and received feedback from the instructor, she suggested I amp up the action in the sky even though the day didn't necessarily look like that. It needed to be a bit stronger to balance the strength of the left side. I totally agreed so I increased the contrasts and activity in the clouds and I am happy with the result. Sometimes you have to just make the painting work regardless of what your subject shows you.

This was a wonderful location to paint. I set up in an Adirondack chair near, but not on, the beach. It was a bit sheltered by the trees, so as the wind picked up it didn't bother me too much. It was so peaceful listening to the water lap against the shore and to hear the bustle of nature around me. Well, to be honest, time may have softened the memory. The bustle of nature I speak of was not particularly calming so much as life threatening! Okay, I might be exaggerating, but you feel another plein air adventure coming don't you???

Again I was happily painting away when I suddenly noticed I was not alone. You know when you hear something darting around, but when you look up, nothing? Well, that went on for a short while and finally I spotted the varmint... a [ninja] squirrel! He had a real glint in his eye that one. He was nothing like the sweetie I told you about in this post that had a nap on the branch above me at Spruce River. It became clear that I had set up in his part of the woods as he ran circles around me from tree to tree, up and down, around and around. Eventually, as I continued to paint, he realized he wasn't going to spook me that easily, so he got down to the business of collecting pine cones. Here is where it got interesting.... he would shoot up a tree and then drop little pine cone bombs all around! You could almost hear them whistle through the air before they, thwack!, landed! Then he would zoom down, grab them and eat them on a nearby rock while staring at me with the evil eye. It was H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S! It was funny because he could have been a cartoon the way he acted and ate. He sat on the rock shredding through the pine cones faster than anything I've ever seen before. Literally pieces and bits were flying everywhere as he spun it around in his little paws.. feet?...hands? What do squirrels have anyway?

Here is a photo of my evil  little companion. Just look at the debris on that rock! He never did hit me with a pine cone bomb, but I was definitely picking bits of bark and twigs out of my hair from when he was racing around on the branches above me!

Okay, just a bit more to show you from my course at Emma, so I will do that in my next few posts, then I am excited to show you what I have accomplished at the studio back in town. I'm working on some larger pieces for my show at Moka.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Feathery Pine

Feathery Pine
8x8"
oil on board
sold

My goal at this point in the week was to listen to my instructor's constructive criticism which was that my tree top studies had been a smidge illustrative. She said that pines are feathery and soft, even a bit floppy, so with that in mind I used the same limited palette as before (Cad. Yellow Light, Yellow Ochre, Crimson, Phthalo Blue, Titanium White), but tried to soften or gray the colours a bit more. As well, I used a different brush. For the most part I gravitate toward a flat, square brush so in an effort to switch things up I pulled out a "round brush". It was a fun day of experimenting. I did this study and enjoyed it a lot so afterwards I did a larger painting which I will post next time.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Trouble in Paradise

my space in the studio
Kenderdine Campus
The studio building with covered outdoor work area

After the skies I painted (my last two posts), things went downhill for me. That same afternoon I decided to paint a fallen tree and the forest floor. The entire time I painted I kept wondering what on earth was wrong with the paints. They seemed so dull and lifeless. They didn't have the same sheen as the tree top studies I had done just the day before. I am quite new to oils, so I am on a steep learning curve and, as much as I like experimenting, the hit-and-miss approach can be a bit tedious! In this case I just figured I was mixing my medium and paint differently and yet at the same time I truly couldn't work out what had changed. As my painting time went on and nothing improved I began to feel frustrated. The results were so poor. Do I keep plodding along or do I quit, regroup, and start fresh? But without knowing where I had gone wrong, the next painting could end up with the same problem. I took a deep breathe and went through a checklist in my mind...

1) same paint? check
2) same medium? check
3) same brushes? check
4) same board? che... hey, wait a minute....!!!!

This is where it all came together. Yes, I was using the same type of MDF board that I had used in my tree top studies but... and this is the kicker... I was painting on the un-sealed side of the board!!!!! The paint was literally soaking into the surface as fast as it was being applied. No wonder it looked completely dull and matte. And yes, it took me a good hour or so of painting time before the lightening bolt struck and I put it all together. Therein lies the problem with my new GAC-100: it is clear, so at quick glance the board appears the same on both sides. Really, it could happen to anyone... right?   

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Clearing Sky

Clearing Sky
8x8"
oil on cradled panel

This is the second sky I did from my spot at the end of the dock. As the morning progressed the clouds began to clear and blue sky increasingly took over. That is the tricky thing about plein air painting; the light changes so quickly, as do the clouds. However, when the sky is my subject the reality of that helps me to work in a more quick and loose manner.

I have to make a correction... this is the cradled panel that I used my GAC-100 to seal, not the one in the previous post. The Naples Yellow I used in the palette for this painting was an exact match to the colour of the sealed surface. The painting "Gray" in my previous post was gessoed then given a Quinaquidone Nickel Azo ground. Ahhh, the memory ain't what it used to be!


Here is the little cabin I stayed in during my week at the camp... Cabin #10... a sweet little place to hang my hat .... and my ant infested painting pants (read here to see what I am talking about)...at the end of the day. It was made even better by my room mate, Deb. We had never roomed before even though we had been in classes together in the past, so it was a real treat this time. Lots of catching up and giggles in the dark. One morning we woke to the sound of Aboriginal singing and drumming. It was powerful and emotional. So much better to wake up to than my beeping (or should I say bleepin') alarm clock! The drummer was with another group sharing the campus with us and he had gone to the outdoor (but covered) sculpture/welding pad where he chanted/sang to welcome the day. It was fabulous.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gray

Gray
8x8
oil on cradled panel
sold

Switching gears a little, on the third day at the Emma Lake workshop I decided to go to the beach and give the greens a break! I wanted to play with mixing grays and painting in a faster, looser way. I didn't specifically limit my palette here, but in the end I didn't use a lot of colours anyway. I had ordered some cradled panels when they were on sale from Opus, so I used one to see how it compared to the MDF boards I had been enjoying the previous days. The cradled panel I used for this painting was sealed with my new, trusty GAC-100 (Golden), so the pale colour of the wood showed through. In fact, I discovered that the colour of the wood was almost an exact match to Naples Yellow! There was not a huge difference between the cradled panels and the MDF boards. They are both obviously hard surfaces compared to canvas, which is what I am used to. The biggest difference was that the MDF boards were perfectly smooth, slippery even. The cradled panels had a slightly rougher surface, so there was a bit more "grab" with them.


It was a peaceful morning; very quiet, calm water, no breeze. I parked myself at the end of the dock. I had never painted there before, but since I had seen others set up in that spot I figured it would be okay. I slipped into my meditative painting mode quite easily. There was a canoe nearby on the other side of some reeds. I think the people were fishing, so any conversation they had was very soft and didn't bother my concentration. I'm easily startled when I paint because I guess I get kind of absorbed in what I am doing. Well, it wasn't long before I was being startled left and right! Why??? Because there were fish jumping everywhere... on my side of the reeds!!! It was unbelievable! If the fishermen only knew!  

I am including a photo I took looking back toward the campus from the end of the dock where I was painting. The building you see on the left is the cafeteria building. The dining hall is a circular shape and has a wrap-around, screened-in porch facing the lake. It feels like you are eating outside, but there are no insects! Very clever, very enjoyable. In this picture you can also see Adirondack chairs surrounding a fire pit and a cabin tucked into the trees.

Sigh. It is a wonderful place. It has a rich history that most don't know about... someday I will try to give it to you in a nutshell. For now I am typed out!