Optimistic Pursuits – Blog

Flow: Works from the Surrey Art Gallery Permanent Collection

April 14- June 10, 2018:   See paintings, sculptures, and ceramics from the Surrey Art Gallery’s Permanent Collection that “flow” in different ways.

Our world is marked by the ever-present movement of peoples, products, and ideas over vast distances and at rapid speeds. These movements and transmissions dictate the limits of life, the energetic potential of nature, the dynamics of economies, and the transformative potential of society and individuals.

Our world is marked by the ever-present movement of peoples, products, and ideas over vast distances and at rapid speeds. These movements and transmissions dictate the limits of life, the energetic potential of nature, the dynamics of economies, and the transformative potential of society and individuals.

Sara Graham, Thornton Rail Yard, Surrey #4 (2015), mixed papers and silicone glue.

Drawing from Surrey Art Gallery’s permanent collection, the over two dozen artworks presented address numerous themes, including transnational migration, the circulation of information and data, the force of waterways and weather systems, the physical movement of human bodies, and the transportation of materials and products to market by rail or by foot.

Some works, like Val Nelson’s painting Rush Hour 2 (2014), draw attention to the flow of people in our cities. In particular, Nelson’s work examines the relationship between the congestion of our roadways with our culture’s enthusiasm for grand detached homes and single-occupancy vehicles. Delving more into the movement of goods, Sara Graham’s Thornton Railyard, Surrey, BC (2015) uses miniature filigreed collage techniques to depict the contours and history of movement of one of British Columbia’s largest rail yards.

Brendan Tang, Manga Ormolu Version 4.1-a (2009), ceramic clay and mixed media.

Soheila Esfahani’s The Immigrants: Homage to F.H. Varley (2015) reimagines a classic image of new immigrants arriving in Canada as seen in Varley’s c.1922 painting with found blue and white porcelain plates and custom ceramic decals. Brendan Lee Satish Tang’s brightly coloured clay vessel Manga Ormolu Version 4.1-a (2009) combines stylistic elements from Ming Dynasty era ceramics with techno-pop robotic elements reminiscent of Japanese anime, manga, toys, and video games. Out of Tang’s vessel gushes a black pumice-like ectoplasm meant to evoke both nineteenth-century spiritualism and twentieth-century science fiction. The potential for gushing black liquid of another sort is seen in Edward Burtynsky’s large-scale photographs showing shiny steel liquid natural gas pipelines zig-zagging across British Columbian landscapes.

The wide variety of images and objects make visible some of the most central conflicts and issue of our time.

The opening reception is the 6:30-9pm on April 14th.
We hope that you will be able to join us for the opening and post-opening gathering later that same evening.

Exhibition Details
Location: Surrey Art Gallery – 13750 88 Ave
Price: Free
Date: Apr 14, 2018 – Jun 10, 2018
Hours:
Tuesday – Thursday, 9am – 9pm
Friday, 9am-5pm
Saturday, 10am-5pm
Sunday, 12-5pm
Closed Mondays and holidays

13450 – 104 Avenue
Surrey, BC, Canada
V3T 1V8

Map

Translink trip planner

 

 

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Treat yourself to a painting class: 2018 Open Studio with Val

Make a date with your painting practise! This is a great way to get your process moving forward, by committing to six 3-hour once-per-week painting sessions. With Val’s helpful tutelage, tackle technical and conceptual concerns in the company of like-minded painters. You will work on a personal project during the class–bring a project to completion (very empowering!) or begin something new.  Each session will begin with a drawing warm-up exercise in your sketchbook. Arrive early to set up (2pm and later) so you can make the most of your time!

I will have room for only 5 students, so don’t delay 🙂 I look forward to seeing you soon!

OPEN STUDIO PAINTING WORKSHOP Feb/March 2018

Six Friday afternoons: 2:30-5:30pm

Dates: Feb 16, 23, March 2, 9, 16, 23

Location: Val Nelson Studio, 1000 Parker Street, #322b

Pre-requisite: This is not a beginners’ class. Some painting experience recommended. Oil or acrylic.

Tuition: $350 includes GST

To Register: $75 deposit secures your spot. E-transfer, cheque, or hand-delivered cash all acceptable. Send to val@valnelson.ca

Cancellation policy: Please note that one weeks’ notice is required for cancellation with full refund of deposit. No refund for last-minute cancellations unless I can fill your spot.

Questions?: To determine if this class is for you, send me an email or call me: val@valnelson.ca   778-865-2650

 

 

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You’re invited: EASTSIDE CULTURE CRAWL 2017 Thursday, Nov 16-Sunday Nov 19

It’s that time of year again! I look forward to sharing with you some recent work in my studio at the Eastside Culture Crawl, where I’ll be showing gestural line drawings and paintings of baroque interiors, as well as intimate Paris portrait drawings and self-portraits.

You can view Available Work here.

I’m excited that my new book, Song for a Tired Businessman, will be for sale.

 

And once again I’ll be taking donations for my Optimistic Pursuits pencils, 100% proceeds to Recovery Through Art Society .

I hope to see you there!

FESTIVAL HOURS

Thursday, November 16
5 pm – 10 pm

Friday, November 17
5 pm – 10 pm

Saturday, November 18
11 am – 6 pm

Sunday, November 19
11 am – 6 pm

STUDIO LOCATION: #322b-1000 Parker Street

ENQUIRIES: val@valnelson.ca  778-865-2650

xoxVal

 

 

 

 

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EASTSIDE CULTURE CRAWL 2017

Visit Val in her studio: #322b-1000 Parker St, Vancouver, BC
Thursday, November 16/Friday, November 17:  5-10pm        Saturday, November 18/Sunday, November 19: 11am-6pm

 

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Life

I’ve been researching portraiture, including a series of painted and drawn self-portraits, and also some drawn portrait studies I made in Paris of people I met there this past Spring. All but one of these were painted from life.

Self-portrait with headphones, oil on paper, 15 x 11 inches

Self-portrait with big neck, oil on paper, 15 x 11 inches

Self-portrait as Kokoschka, oil on canvas, 12 x 9 inches

Self-portrait as a Dutchwoman, oil on canvas, 12 x 9 inches

Mute, oil on canvas, 12 x 9 inches

Self-portrait painting, oil on canvas and oil on paper diptych, approx dimensions: 10 x 10 and 11 x 15 inches

 

Self-portrait in electric light, oil on canvas, 12 x 9 inches

Self-portrait with broken clavicle, approx dimensions 11 x 11 inches, graphite and pencil crayon on paper

Self-portrait in springtime, oil on paper, 8 x 10 inches

Pauline, Paris, graphite pencil in Moleskine sketch book, 8.25 x 10.25 inches

 

 

Michelle, Paris, graphite pencil in Moleskine sketch book, 8.25 x 5 inches

Melissa, Paris, graphite pencil in Moleskine sketch book, 8.25 x 5 inches

 

Julien, Paris (detail), graphite pencil in Moleskine sketch book, 8.25 x 5 inches

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Tuscany Painting Retreat Sneak Peek 2017

I’m in the final stages of planning a painting holiday for early June 2017. Here’s a sneak peak of the location––a very old stone farmhouse and a charming converted tobacco drying tower in the Italian countryside, located just outside the little town of Mercatale, halfway between Umbertide and Cortona.

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Students will spend five days of painting and soaking up the beautiful surroundings and bucolic Italian atmosphere.

Monday to Friday, there will be six hours of painting instruction each day–– three hours in the morning, then a break in the middle of the day for free time to explore the surrounding area and adopt the Italian spirit of “dolce far niente” (it’s sweet to do nothing). From 4 to 7pm we will reconvene and paint plein air when the light becomes more and more spectacular. Perfetto, non?

If you’d like to find out more, please send me an email: val@valnelson.ca

ciao, Val

 

 

 

 

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Amsterdam!

I’m pretty excited to be skipping town for a week to take in some amazing art and have a little rest. One of my first stops in the museum district will be the Rijksmuseum, where I’m interested to see wonderful portraiture and still life paintings of the old Masters. I’ll also want to check out how they facilitate the #startdrawing program. On Saturday mornings,  museum staff-members encourage visitors to make drawings in order to experience the work differently from the (sadly common) quick photo document snapped with a smartphone.

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The Goldfinch (detail), Carel Fabritius, 13.2 x 9 inches, oil on panel, 1654

Also I’ll take in Rembrandt House,  the Stedilijk, Van Gogh Museum, and hopefully the Mauritshuis in the Hague, where I can see Vermeer’s The Pearl Earring and Fabritius’ delightful The Goldfinch firsthand. I heard also that I must visit the Jordaan district where I can find many contemporary art galleries. Hoping I can find some inspiring contemporary painting.

Naturally I’ll do some goofing off as well, wander along the canals and generally drift. I brought my trusty Moleskine sketchbook in case I’m feeling ambitious. 🙂

 

See you when I return!

cheers, Val

 

 

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Talking objects

Below are images of a work shown in progress through to completion, of the Porcelain Dining Room in the Chateau de Versailles. It’s a commission I’ve enjoyed making for a private home near Toronto.  The wide panoramic format was pieced together from individual photographs I took from a trip in France a number of years ago. I remember going through the chateau twice, the second pass offered a satisfying, golden afternoon light. The composition reminds me of the forced perspective one observes on the virtual tours of museum websites.

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Porcelainpanorama in progress

Day 3, Porcelain Panorama (working title), 36 x 72 inches, oil on canvas

Blocking in always begins with big brushes, to locate everything and establish colour family and main values. The next step in the painting is to use smaller brushes and go in for specifics of detail, sharpening edges and creating stronger focal points. I want the viewer to feel immersed in the space, with lots to encourage the eye to keep meandering, discovering new subtleties and maybe even surprises. It’s important to me that a painting unfold for the viewer slowly, to withstand the test of time.

In the final session something happened that wasn’t planned. Here’s the finished piece with its new title, Mantlepiece with Talking Objects (Versailles).

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Mantelpiece with talking objects (Versailles), 36 x 72 inches, oil on canvas, 2016

Working with the warm colors of the parquet flooring, gilding, and marble, really helped energize the gray days of winter.

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Itness

Now that the cooler weather of Fall is here, I’m so grateful to be able to get back into the studio and paint paint paint. A little study I made last winter of a scene on my breakfast table has been calling to me. I painted it on an old envelope.

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Val Nelson, V5Y, 4.25 x 6.25 inches, oil on PVA on paper, 2015

The appearance of objects, and their quiet presence or “itness”, has long been something that really gets to me.  I wasn’t sure about this humble image, but after much deliberation I decided there’s something about it I need to pay attention to.

So here’s a painting I made this week:

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Val Nelson, A Room in Mount Pleasant, oil on canvas, 14 x 18 inches, 2015

And I started another one:

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Day One: A Room in Mount Pleasant #2

For the next several months all I want to do is immerse myself in the wordless process of looking,  and recording what I see. I’ve been tussling with a purist notion that I must work only from life; but the practicality of it has not been easy to deal with. The dimensions of my apartment limit me from painting there with an easel; a way around it could have been working very small, but to be honest I get very claustrophobic with all my painting gear cluttering up the place. My home is a sanctuary, where I can rest. So the solution is of course

photography.

This past year of working off and on from life has really helped me. Observing how light changes in a space over time informs how I now see colour, and I realize I have more freedom to mess around with what goes on in the rectangle. At the same time my drawing is getting better.

And my Ipad and Iphone now have those updated apps that have much better options for image correction.

You can see I’ve put grid marks on the canvas above. Having watched Antonio Garcia Lopez paint in the film El Sol del Mebrillo by Victor Erice I realized that within extreme control (measuring), one can then have great freedom (painterly interpretation). But Garcia doesn’t like working from photography. I’m okay with acknowledging I live in the 21st century and can use any technology I want, as did Bonnard, Vuillard, Degas, and those guys who probably used the camera obscura (Vermeer, Caravaggio). However, so far I’m not interested in actually projecting and tracing. I like drawing too much, and I feel like something interesting happens when I get things slightly wrong even though I’m trying to get it right.

 

 

 

 

 

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Drawing for Pleasure

Anyone can draw. But people in our culture often think of drawing as something done by children, or a specialist in drawing, called an “artist”. Many times I’ve heard stories from people about an early point in their lives when someone looked at a drawing they had made and said “that doesn’t look real,” or “what’s that supposed to be?” which sadly discouraged them from continuing to draw. They just stopped.

Most of us as children had the compulsion to take crayon to paper or any available surface, out of the sheer joy of making marks, expressing something we saw or imagined or felt.

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Cy Twombly, Untitled (Rome), 1966, Oil, wall paint, grease crayon/canvas, 190 x 200 cm, Sammlung Lambrecht-Schadeberg

Right from the early cave drawings we humans have been recording our experience of the world. What excites me the most about drawing is that when you slow down and really look, the beauty and variety in the world around you begin to reveal themselves. You begin to notice the proportions of buildings, the difference between the ears on a cat compared to those on a dog, the complexity of pattern of wood-grain, or the subtle gradations of light that make up a back-lit glass of water.

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Val Nelson, Dreaming of Picasso, Moleskine sketch book, 2015

On August 9, I will be leading a one-day intensive in my studio, “Drawing Jumpstart.” I encourage anyone, draw-ers and “non-drawers” alike, who have some curiosity and a sense of play to join me. We will have a wonderful day together as we explore the process of recording what we see in various ways.

I also have a few spots available in my “Painting Jumpstart” class on August 23.

For more information about the classes and for registration,  go to the Teaching page on my website.

warmly, Val

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