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

 

 

 

 

FALL PAINTING CLASSES

Hey everyone, it’s studio time! Due to popular demand, I have a couple of things lined up for October and November. There will be a reprise of my one-day Painting Jumpstart Intensive, so dust off your paint tubes and jump in as we have some fun and push the paint around in a number of different ways. Also Open Studios returns for four sessions for those of you who have projects on the go and want structured time to get them moving forward.

I have a couple of things lined up for October and November. There will be a reprise of my one-day Painting Jumpstart Intensive, so dust off your paint tubes and jump in as we have some fun and push the paint around in a number of different ways. Also Open Studios returns for four sessions for those of you who have projects on the go and want structured time to get them moving forward.

 

PAINTING JUMPSTART ONE-DAY INTENSIVE

This class is full. Please email Val for information on the next one!

Sunday, October 4, 10am-3:30pm

This class will inject new energy into your painting process.  You will be guided through a series of playful painting exercises on paper, which will include mark-making, colour exercises, and observational painting with a twist.

Fee: $80

Location: VAL NELSON STUDIO   #322b-1000 Parker Street

TO REGISTER: An e-transfer is fine, or cheque to my home address will secure your spot.  Two weeks’ notice for cancellation is required, otherwise the fee is non-refundable. If you need to cancel after the two-week window, if I can fill your spot, I will refund you.

Contact: Val Nelson    val@valnelson.ca   778-865-2650

 

OPEN STUDIO

This class is full with a wait-list. Please email Val for information on the next set of classes.

Four Sundays, 2-5pm: October 18 & 25, Nov 1 & 8

Val will guide you as you tackle technical and conceptual concerns in your painting practice. In the company of like-minded painters, you will work on a personal project during the workshop. Each session will begin with a 30-minute painting warm-up exercise on paper.

Fee: $210

Location: VAL NELSON STUDIO   #322b-1000 Parker Street

TO REGISTER:  As space is limited, a $55 deposit is required to secure your spot, with the remaining fee payable upon first day of class.  An e-transfer is fine, or cheque to my home address is good also.  Two weeks’ notice for cancellation is required, otherwise the deposit is non-refundable. If you need to cancel after the two-week window, if I can fill your spot, I will refund you.

Contact: Val Nelson    val@valnelson.ca   778-865-2650

 



LEARN PAINTING with Val ONLINE

I’ve been working with Craftsy, a company in Denver that specializes in interactive classes on cooking and crafting, which is listed among the top 30 start-up companies in America by Forbes, and is watched by 2.5 million viewers. They produced an online tutorial of my “Loosen Up”  class, which you can access anytime, anywhere, and it is now online. Here’s a little story about how it all happened. 🙂

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Some student testimonials on the Craftsy class:

“Val, I loved everything about these lessons. The way you communicated the step by step processes, taking us through from start to finish was easy to follow and clear. The filming was fantastic and the way you talked to us made me feel like I was in the room. You’ve inspired me!
Highly recommend this for any painter wanting to loosen up or just enjoy painting! Thank you.”

“Val Nelson’s experience with painting is a joy to watch and learn. Her approach is encouraging, informative, and she offers a variety of techniques of how to paint more loosely. She shows how painting in a more expressive way is about using the materials in a thoughtful and resourceful manner. I highly recommend this course to any artist who wants to learn how to paint in a more expressive style.”

“This class has revealed so many techniques that I have missing at my level of painting. Thank you for sharing your expertise. I’m self taught so my knowledge of the essential elements of composition, structure, and brush work is weak. This class has been so very valuable to my artistic journey. Thank you, Val Nelson and, once again, Craftsy!”

Here’s a link to my Craftsy class, and make sure you have a look at another class by my friend and awesome oil painter and teacher, Jay Senetchko–– Paint and Palette Essentials.


MORE ABOUT MY CLASSES

I paint full-time, so I teach when my schedule permits. In my studio in Vancouver, I can accommodate up to six students, so there is plenty of one-on-one attention. My classes are usually in six-week blocks (one 3-hour session per week), and sometimes I teach weekend and multi-day intensives. I’m also available as a consultant to aspiring professional artists, as a guest teacher at art-schools and for painting groups, and I occasionally give painting demonstrations.

Group classes at your choice of location: Full day (6-7 hours) $450 Half day (3 hours) $300
For classes outside of Vancouver, travel expenses extra.

Private Consultation/Mentorship: $65/hr

Demonstration/Artist talk:  Honorarium appreciated

Testimonials: Click here if you would like to read about how others feel about my classes.

Email list: If you’d like to be notified of future workshops and classes, or would like to discuss other ways in which we could work together that could be potentially awesome,  please email me : val@valnelson.ca

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Beginnings

I’ve been thinking about when and how the artist emerges in a person. I think it’s probably always there right from the beginning. At least for me that was the case, though I didn’t really know what that was, or what that meant for a long time.

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Girl waiting for a bus and turning, ink sketchbook drawing, 2014

I grew up in the forestry town of Port Alberni, in the middle of rural Vancouver Island on the western edge of Canada. Our town was booming in the early 60’s with an impressive population of around 50,000. Port’s iconic pulp and paper mill smoke stacks anchored the landscape, and spewed steam, smoke, and a sour sulfurous aroma into the air twenty-four hours a day. The mill employed many of our town’s young men fresh out of high school.

You could say my first art studio was the kitchen wall of the tiny bungalow we lived in until I was five years old. At some point I started scribbling on the wall beside the refrigerator pretty much every day; luckily for me, my Mom could see this activity was unstoppable, so she hung big sheets of paper there so I could go at it. There were no art galleries or art museums that I was aware of, and I had next to no art classes in elementary school, unless you call gluing cotton balls onto a pre-drawn image of a flower art.

Maybe once or twice a year we had Mrs. Mottel as a substitute teacher. Even though she was pretty strict and we were all kind of scared of her, I loved it when Mrs. Mottel showed up, because in the afternoon she would turn our classroom into an art room and we would make a copy of an image she showed us how to paint, like a sailboat on a lake, or a cluster of totem poles, and she introduced us to rudimentary composition and really basic colour theory. She also taught us proper penmanship, had a Scottish accent, and insisted we roll our R’s when pronouncing the word “squirrel” which, when we tried it, sounded more like “squiddle”.

 

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Boy studying, oil on cardboard, approx 9 x 12 inches, 2011

The closest thing to fine art I remember being exposed to were reproductions of Picasso drawings and paintings you could order from an ad in Life magazine. I sensed that Modern Art had something to do with Spain–everyone at that time was decorating their homes in Spanish iron grillwork, hot orange upholstery, and oil paintings of bullfighters on black velvet, which I thought were really classy.

I was diagnosed with myopia in grade four. Arriving home wearing the exciting new technology (for me) of eyeglasses, I opened the car door and was entranced by the clarity of the gravel rocks in the driveway. For a while I didn’t move from the front seat of the car, I just kept staring at the ground, its appearance was so electrifying. I also recall a summer afternoon spent hanging out on the gravel pathway of my Grandma Connie’s garden, determined to colour every individual rock with wax crayon. Needless to say it was a failed project.

My Mom’s mother was known as “Big Connie” because one of her nieces, my cousin, had the same first name and was of course dubbed “Little Connie”. Big Connie was not actually very big, she was small in stature but had a large personality––opinionated, feisty, but with a good sense of humour if you got on her good side.

My sister and I spent Saturday afternoons and sometimes overnight with her, to give our parents a break. I loved being there because we got to drink tea like grownups (we called ourselves “tea-grannies”), and Big Connie was an artist. She introduced me to oil painting when I was eleven; with her help I painted an image of mushrooms grouped under the shadow of a tree, copied from a “How to Paint” book.  A self-taught painter of floral still-lifes and seascapes, when Big Connie had an exhibition of her work at the local community centre in town, she included my clumsy little painting along with hers. It wasn’t until many years later as an adult that I touched oil paint again; I wish she was still here now so we could talk about it.

Loosening Up! with Craftsy

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My new online painting class with Craftsy has launched! I’m excited to announce this because over the past five years I’ve been honing a painting class called Loosen Up! that helps students be more relaxed about their painting process. People seem to really enjoy my classes, and it makes me so happy to see their work blossom! I teach out of my studio, and as a guest instructor in some art schools and various art guilds around BC.

As the Craftsy catalogue already has some solid classes on basic painting technique, they wanted me to deliver something more like a “tips” class so people could take their painting further. So in the class I talk about brushwork, and tips on avoiding muddiness, and light and dark patterns. I especially focus on edges; in other words how to paint objects without hard contours around everything.

Craftsy flew me to Denver for a three-day shoot in October, and everyone there was fantastic and they all love their jobs! I met some other lovely instructors there, like knitters (one in particular whom I will talk about in another blog) and cake makers, who help people to get better at making things they love.

Over the winter the Craftsy editors have been putting it all together and now that it’s live, it’s starting to attract new students from all over. Students can play the video lessons and review what they’ve learned,  as many times as they want, and they can access the classes forever.

Here’s what students have been saying:

“Val, I loved everything about these lessons. The way you communicated the step by step processes, taking us through from start to finish was easy to follow and clear. The filming was fantastic and the way you talked to us made me feel like I was in the room. You’ve inspired me!
Highly recommend this for any painter wanting to loosen up or just enjoy painting! Thank you.”

“Val Nelson’s experience with painting is a joy to watch and learn. Her approach is encouraging, informative, and she offers a variety of techniques of how to paint more loosely. She shows how painting in a more expressive way is about using the materials in a thoughtful and resourceful manner. I highly recommend this course to any artist who wants to learn how to paint in a more expressive style.”

“This class has revealed so many techniques that I have missing at my level of painting. Thank you for sharing your expertise. I’m self taught so my knowledge of the essential elements of composition, structure, and brush work is weak. This class has been so very valuable to my artistic journey. Thank you, Val Nelson and, once again, Craftsy!”

Here is a link to my Craftsy class. Check it out and tell me what you think 🙂

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Master Paintings of Christmas

These iconic painted images continue to resonate centuries later, due not only to their subject-matter but also for their formal and aesthetic appeal. Excerpted  from The Guardian, Culture.

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Caspar David Friedrich, Winter Landscape, 1811
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Giotto, Nativity, 1303-1305
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Leonardo da Vinci, The Adoration of the Magi, 1482
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Claude Monet, Snow Scene at Argenteuil, 1875
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Peiter Breughel the Elder, Hunters in the Snow, 1565

 

Hola Diego and Raoul!

I’m heading off to Barcelona and Madrid in March! The draw? Well, the sunshine OF COURSE! But actually, my main focus will be the extensive collection of Velasquez works (amongst many other important historic painters) at the Prado, and very fortunately for me at the same time there will be a Raoul Dufy show on at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza just down the road. A nice mix of serious historic painting chops contrasted with a more graphic, pleasure-filled counterpoint. I’m inspired by both.

Study of a detail after Velasquez' Equestrian Portrait of Prince Balthasar Carlos, 26 x 20 inches, oil on panel, 2014
Study of a detail after Velasquez’ Equestrian Portrait of Prince Balthasar Carlos, 26 x 20 inches, oil on panel, 2014

Gotta say that having booked my flight it was a treat to surf around to find what Air Bnb I would stay in. I’d much rather stay in an an apartment with homey appeal than a generic over-priced hotel any day. In both cities I’ll be staying right in the middle of the centre, so I can stride out the door after my morning coffee and be at the museums after a brisk 15-minute walk. That way I can have my fill of art, stroll home for a siesta, have some lunch and a café con leche and go and do some exploring and drawing.

I’ve been obsessing over what art supplies to bring, waffling between oils (too involved for such a short stay), gouache (easier to travel with but I’m not terribly fluent in using them), drypoint on copper (plates too heavy, and security might confiscate the plates and diamond tip tool as potential weapons on the plane).

I’ve finally decided on my favorite simple drawing tools: pen, pencil and sketchbook.

Hasta luego!

Val

 

 

 

Optimistic Pursuits has moved!

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View from Notre Dame in Pink, Green, and Grey

If you enjoy my posts, I’ve now amalgamated this blog into my website. So come on over and follow me here. If you want to be part of my newsletter list, please then click on CONTACT and follow the prompts. Thanks so much for being part of my painting adventures!