Optimistic Pursuits – Blog

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!

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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Some Portraits

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

This entry was posted in Optimistic Pursuits.

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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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.

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Val Nelson, Atocha Station, 48 x 48 inches, oil on canvas, 2015

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.

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Also, I didn’t at all mind the hit of colour in the hot pink bedspread.

DSCF3705madrid-bedroom-morningFirst 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.

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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.

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Las Meninas, Diego Velázquez, 1656, (image courtesy of Wikimedia and Museo del Prado)

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.

DSCF3196madrid-museum-of-hamOne gets hungry looking at so much art. Luckily on the road across from the Prado, you can visit the very fine Museum of Ham, or “jamón” as they say in Spain.

DSCF3754buenretiroparkgoodAnd 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.

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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.

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Antonio López in his studio in front of his portrait of the Spanish royal family, nearly complete after 20 years. (Photo: Gonzalo Cruz/EP)

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.

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Antonio Garcia Lopez, Gran Vía, August 1, oil on canvas 125x129cm, 2009-2011

Here is another of Lopez’ paintings. Isn’t it fabulous?

DSCF3458view-from-bellas-artes-webAnd here is a spot very close to where he made it. The Edificio Metrópolis building in the left foreground has been vastly improved by the shroud of a celphone ad.

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.

hasta luego,

Val

 

 

 

 

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PAINTING DEMO

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.

 

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