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.
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!
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: email@example.com 778-865-2650
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
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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!
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.
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).
Working with the warm colors of the parquet flooring, gilding, and marble, really helped energize the gray days of winter.
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.
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:
And I started another one:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Madrid Travel Notes
Ahhh—the meditative experience of train travel, as the landscape floats gently by. After saying goodbye to Barcelona, a few hours later I arrived at the beautiful Atocha Station in Madrid.
I love the in-between spaces of travel, where time is suspended, and human presence, ephemeral.
Taking the handy metro from Atocha, I emerged in the Plaza Tirso de Molina, where I was delighted to find that my new accommodations overlooked this interesting view, great for people-watching.
Also, I didn’t at all mind the hit of colour in the hot pink bedspread.
First stop, the main reason for coming to sunny Spain: the magnificent Prado Museum, where I spent most of the day soaking up the fantastic works of Diego de Velázquez. No photography was allowed, but I did make a small drawing of one of his dwarfs, which Velázquez painted around 1645.
Velasquez made a number of paintings of jesters and dwarves for his patron, King Philip V, to be hung in the royal hunting lodge. Though these characters were employed as a source of amusement and entertainment for the Spanish court, Velasquez captures the intelligence and dignity of his subject, The Jester Don Diego de Acedo, el Primo.
I spent several hours in the large room with Velázquez’ masterpiece, Las Meninas, and a number of fabulous Equestrian portraits. Alas, the one of the young prince Carlos was on loan to another museum.
I had previously painted a study of that one from a reproduction in my dog-eared book, Velázquez: The Technique of Genius, so I was looking forward to seeing the painting firsthand, having become so familiar with the master’s work.
But there were still plenty of top-notch painting chops to absorb, such as Goya, El Greco, and Bosch — oh my! But perhaps that is for another blog.
And behind the Prado is the lovely Buen Retiro Park, where you can eat and drink at little cafés, overlooking a peaceful lake. I returned here several times over the course of my eight days in Madrid, to rest up from the intensity of sight-seeing. There’s nothing like hanging around trees and water to help you recharge.
A friend from Vancouver put me in touch with her friend Maria who lives in Madrid. Her apartment has a view of the Palacio Real. Maria kindly served me tapas, and invited me back to photograph her lovely apartment in the daytime, as I was charmed by it and saw potential for new paintings.
I was fortunate to be able to see an exhibition of royal portraits at the Palacio after my photo session. The show included a very good group portrait of the current Spanish royal family by contemporary Spanish painter, Antonio Garcia Lopez. The painting took 20 years to complete because, as the artist says, he was hindered by having to work from photographs.
Lopez, who usually only works from life, is an artist I have been admiring for some time now–there is a wonderful film, El Sol del Membrillo (Dream of Light) which unfortunately is only available in PAL format, so I have to admit that I sometimes look at a pirated Youtube version in Spanish with no subtitles. This award-winning film by Victor Erice is probably one of the best films I’ve seen on the life of a painter.
I also like to immerse myself in this very good book about Lopez.
Here is another of Lopez’ paintings. Isn’t it fabulous?
At the Bellas Artes building, you pay a few Euros and take an elevator to the roof, where you’ll get a panoramic view of Madrid. Madrid’s Academy of Art has its headquarters here, and this is where Dali and Picasso were once students. I now know that there is also an excellent painting gallery there. If you visit Madrid, please go and visit it and tell me what you think.
VALUE AND EDGES with VAL NELSON
September 20, 11am-1pm at Opus Art Supplies, Granville Island, Vancouver.
Gain confidence in working with a limited palette. Award-winning artist and sought-after painting instructor Val Nelson will demonstrate, in oil paint, how the informed use of values and edges is integral to painterly realism.
Space is limited and registration is required.
Please visit Opus Granville Island or contact them at 604‑736‑7028 to register.