Do you feel a bit stuck in your painting process? Do you yearn to find your own “style” and get out of your own way in the studio so you can have more fun? Part of the solution lies in mindset, and part of it is technical. By working through a series of painterly problems, you will come away with a number of strategies that you can apply to your refresh your studio time beyond the lessons.
Some experience recommended. Oil or acrylic. Supply list provided upon registration.
I was supposed to be in Paris with my sweetie in March this year, but we had to postpone our trip almost at the last moment when the global pandemic developed with such surprising speed. Since we won’t be going anywhere for a while, I’ve decided to share with you some events from my five week dream stay in Paris in 2017.
What made the trip extraordinary was that there was a very real chance it could never happen.
In late summer of 2016 I made my plan: I’d wake up in Paris on April 1 (my birthday), live six weeks in Paris “like a Parisian”, then move on to teach a two-week painting workshop in Tuscany. Then I’d wrap up my trip by meeting a friend to see the Venice Biennale. Très excitant!
Everything was on track: I had ramped up my entrepeneurial chops by meeting my financial goals through selling my art; my Tuscan painting holiday was close to fully booked; I had bought my air ticket to Paris, and booked an AirBnB for a really great price.
Ooh la la, I was stoked. I was so amazed that I was making this dream a reality. But I was a bit tired from all this activity. So I took a little break in California to get some sunshine. This is me practicing plein air in Palm Desert on November 29.
On November 30 came the car crash.
The next several months I spent convalescing. I had a concussion, a broken clavicle (my painting arm), major whiplash, and for a while I had difficulty walking. And I couldn’t paint. Argh. I lay awake unable to know what to do. Should I cancel my trip?
It was my dark night of the soul. Since I couldn’t be in the studio, and I love making the most of my time, I thought it would be a good idea to work on my “art career”. When I began working with two different life coaches, it became obvious that what I really needed to address was some deep stuff within myself. So I spent the winter in meditation, and began sorting it all out.
By mid-March, even though I couldn’t yet lift my suitcase, my doctors and physiotherapists deemed me well enough to go to Europe. Hurray! I could spend some of my convalescence in Paris––pas mal, non? I figured sitting in some cafés, looking at art, and maybe making a few drawings should be fine, and I would likely be much stronger by the time I got to do the working portion of my “holiday” in Italy, so things were looking pretty rosy.
Then, the vertigo kicked in. Or what I later learned is actually something called “disequilibrium”. But more on that later.
At any rate, I was still able to leave for France only two weeks later than planned.
When I arrived on a sunny mid-April afternoon and found my new home in the 11th arrondissement, I remembered that I had booked my accommodation the previous fall knowing full-well that there was no elevator. And my suite was on the sixth floor. That’s one of the reasons it was so cheap!
Although I usually like to travel light, my suitcase this time was extra large because of the length of my stay, and the fact that I had brought along art supplies for my upcoming painting workshop. Because I had been in “business” mode for four months, I also had foolishly brought along office supplies, including a stapler that must have weighed nearly half a pound! What was I thinking? Okay, I’ll give myself some slack, I was after all recovering from a concussion.
Needless to say, there was no way I was going to be able to get my stuff up there the normal way. So I treated the ground floor like base camp, and gradually decanted things up the long spiralling staircase over several stages.
The place was pretty tiny, and obviously they’d got most of their decor from Ikea. But I was in Paris!
Stay tuned for more Parisian adventures in my next installment. Meanwhile, I thought I’d pass along a tip on a très charmant online show I’ve been escaping into lately during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s called Little Paris Kitchen, hosted by Rachel Khoo, a young British Cordon-Blue trained chef who demystifies French cooking for us in her tiny Paris flat. She turns her little place into a restaurant at night that can only seat two people at a time! You can find it on CBC Gems and watch it for free.
For the first time at the Culture Crawl I’m offering a limited edition print of one of my paintings, Rush Hour. There will be only 10 in the edition, 10 x 10 inches on archival paper with archival inks. A framed sample beautifully put together by Fine Art Framing will be on display in my studio. I will be taking orders for this and a few other limited editions also available at a price point that allows for affordable gift-giving, for a loved one, or for yourself!
Rush Hour, 10 x 10 inch limited edition print on archival paper
Also available: A 50-page book of select paintings from twelve years of my Tourist series.
As well you will find six new paintings, and a drypoint print, Syon House Interior that I recently re-discovered in my print portfolio, along with some framed 7 x 7 inch 3-colour pencil crayon drawings.
Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre | 181 Roundhouse Mews FREE | No registration required
Join artist Val Nelson to create a spectacular 135-foot long collaborative drawing exploring contour and motion, the individual and the ensemble. Stay for a few minutes or a few hours working with gesture and contour to capture the dynamism of live dancers as they create movement. Participants of all ages and experience are welcome.
Val Nelson has a diverse interdisciplinary arts practice as a dancer and visual artist, film-maker and educator. She was a dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, then majored in Media Arts with Honors at Emily Carr University in 1988. From 1988-2001, she made collaborative dance videos with Holy Body Tattoo, choreographer Anthony Morgan, and Katherine Labelle Dance, that screened worldwide. In 2003 she was shortlisted for the Royal Bank Painting Prize, and from 2003-2016, had eleven solo painting exhibitions in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. In 2012 Val began research on her project I Am A Camera which “archived” recordings of dance and opera performances through her eyes, nervous system, and hand onto paper. In 2016 she expanded on the project with seven-foot wide drawings, made in collaboration with Kokoro Dance, dumb instrument dance, and Sujit Vaidya. Her drawings were exhibited at the 2016 Vancouver International Dance Festival.
The Roundhouse is the Vancouver Park board’s only solely dedicated Arts and Culture Community Centre. The historic building is home to a 200 seat black box theatre, a 2500 foot exhibition hall and artist in residence projects in dance, music and the visual arts as well as a full roster of recreation programs
It is also the home of Engine 374, the locomotive that pulled the first passenger train across Canada from coast to coast.
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. 🙂
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.
I’m excited to be creating new work from my I am a camera series, for a visual art exhibition at the Vancouver International Dance Festival, alongside dance photography by Chris Randle, and woven willow sculpture by Ken Clarke, March 3-19. The artwork will be displayed in the Roundhouse Exhibition Hall in Yaletown. A number of dance companies participating in the festival have graciously welcomed me into their rehearsal studios to draw them as they prepare for their performances. Seeing them at work is a beautiful thing––the total commitment to their artform is palpable and so inspiring. I hope you will be able to take in the vast array of wonderful performances to choose from during the festival, scheduled at various venues.
There will also be free noon-hour life drawing sessions every weekday beginning Thursday, March 3 through Friday March 18 at the Roundhouse Exhibition Hall. Practice your drawing skills and let your creativity be inspired by dancers and life models posing in either costumes or plain clothes.
These public sessions, presented in partnership with the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre, are open to all skill levels, are free, and require no pre-registration. Sketching paper, pencils, and other supplies are available for participants to borrow, courtesy of a generous donation by Opus Art Supplies.