New Paintings

Flowers from a friend, 24 x 20 inches, oil on canvas, 2024
Paris Bistro, oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches, 2024
Camondo-Dining-Room-30×30 inches, oil on canvas, 2023
Chantilly1, 20×24 inches, oil on canvas, 2024
Camondo2, 30×40 inches, oil on canvas, 2024
Prêt-à-porter, 18×24 inches, oil on canvas, 2024
Chantilly2, 30x24inches, oil on canvas, 2024

THE PAINTED PORTRAIT

I will be demonstrating a copy of a 16th century anonymous master for the Chemainus Art Group next week. I did this open acrylic study on cardboard to prep for that. I used a very limited palette: Titanium white, yellow ochre, cadmium red, and raw umber, similar to the Zorn Palette but replacing black with the warmer umber. It’s fascinating to see how much range you can achieve with only four colours.

Manet and In the Studio

This is something I’m working on right now. It’s the interior of a bistro I fell in love with on Rue Oberkampf in Paris. I really enjoyed the zing of colour of the fruit, and the play of morning light bouncing around on various surfaces. And of course the fuschia pink bar stool are très française. At right are gleaming bottles and glassware which will be really fun to paint when I dive back in to finish this.

Initially I made a smaller version of this painting, but realized the subject warranted a bigger scale for a more immersive experience.

The new canvas is 24 x 32 inches. This is not a custom size you can find off the rack at the art supply store, so my darling man cut down a 24 x 36 canvas for me.

I like to use a grey palette at this stage, so I can see how highlights stand out against that midtone. The final hits on the painting are usually the lightest lights, and the darkest darks. I am nuts about the in-between colour mixtures that you can’t quite name, the “greyed down” colours which help the brighter colours sing out.

As usual this is a process through which the painting will eventually tell me what it wants to be, and the meaning comes through the making.

When I see this kind of setting, I can’t help but think of Manet’s brilliant painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergère which he painted in 1882. I dare not compare my work to his, but I am certainly inspired by his lush use of thick paint, and his ability to strategically choose what to emphasize in the composition. This is exceptionally sophisticated art-making.

https://courtauld.ac.uk/gallery/collection/impressionism-post-impressionism/edouard-manet-a-bar-at-the-folies-bergere

I was fortunate to be able to view this painting first-hand at the Courtauld Institute in London. This is from the institution’s website:

This painting was Manet’s last major work. It represents the bustling interior of one of the most prominent music halls and cabarets of Paris, the Folies-Bergère. The venue opened in 1869 and its atmosphere was described as “unmixed joy”. In contrast, the barmaid in Manet’s representation is detached and marooned behind the bar.

The Folies-Bergère was also notorious as a place to pick up prostitutes. The writer Guy de Maupassant described the barmaids as “vendors of drink and of love”.

Manet knew the place well. He made a number of preparatory sketches there but the final work was painted in his studio. He set up a bar and asked one of the barmaids, Suzon, to serve as his model.

The painting was first exhibited in 1882, at the annual fine arts exhibition in Paris, the Salon. Visitors and critics found the composition unsettling. The inaccuracy of the barmaid’s reflection, shifted too far to the right, has continued to spark much debate.

To my mind, good painting that stands the test of time needs to be aesthetically captivating to keep the viewer’s attention (it is visual art after all), but also open to a number of interpretations that cannot be locked down.

However as humans we are captivated by story; we are compelled to know more.

It is possible that he was directly pointing to the barmaid being just another seductive object for consuming with one’s gaze–notice the two round white electric globes flanking her, echoing the lens of binoculars held by a woman in the crowd.

Manet was also known to be an admirer of the work of Spanish court painter, Diego Velàsquez. A similar contradictory space and perplexing riddle are present in Velàsquez’ Las Meninas.

https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/las-meninas/9fdc7800-9ade-48b0-ab8b-edee94ea877f

The painter is looking out at the scene he is creating. Like in Manet’s Bar scene, in the spotlight here is also a beautiful female wearing a corsage on her breast. She looks out at us, while her courtiers attend her. At back is a also a mirror, this time reflecting the images of the king and queen who in this space would seem to be in the studio but only apparent through their reflection. Their physical presence is only implied, and is outside the frame. In the 17th century, when this was painted, the young princess was being groomed to be the wife and queen in a politically arranged marriage to further the power of the Spanish monarchy. So she too is merely an object for trade. Everyone here has their role to play, and know their place.

But although it would appear that all is luxury and ease, the Spanish monarchy was in fact crumbling and its King, Philip II who was Velasquez’ patron, was a weak ruler. One could say that Velàsquez was a skilled propaganda artist. The fact that he painted himself into this image may suggest he is saying directly to future viewers of his masterpiece, “I painted this, and I knew what was actually going on.”

Velàsquez, an avid reader of philosophy, knew that creation is alchemy. We artists conjure our own realities through the power of our imaginations, with the skills of our hearts, minds, and hands.

C’est cool, non?

A bientôt, Val

Haptic Splendour

For the past 15 years, I’ve painted opulent European 18th and 19th century interiors. Designed as theatrical displays of status and power by wealthy aristocrats and bourgeoisie, these formerly private sites are now museums, providing entertainment and pleasure for touristic consumption, while also opening up a space for philosophical contemplation.

Although I use photography as a structural device through which I enter the painting process, with each piece I always seem to arrive at a point of crisis where I need to break free from the tyranny of the image. Through partly destroying the image I discover fresh solutions to painterly problems I set for myself.

Throughout my childhood and into my mid-twenties, I was a ballet dancer. That intense training of spatial awareness and interpretive questioning is still deeply stamped in my DNA. A painting to me is a kind of choreography; there’s a haptic dance that takes place from my optical experience of an image, through to the way my nervous system signals to my body how to translate and record it. As painter/dancer I tease out meaning through working and reworking, coming up to speed as I gain understanding, and making the last strikes with absolute commitment.

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

 

 

 

 

January at Bau-Xi Gallery

GALLERY ARTISTS: Washed by Water

January 9-23, 2016
OPENING RECEPTION: SATURDAY JANUARY 9, 2-4PM
ARTISTS IN ATTENDANCE 

3045 Granville St, Vancouver, BC
604.733.7011info@bau-xi.com

Atom-Dance-2015-30x40-inches-homepage
Atom Dance, 30 x 40 inches, oil on canvas, 2015

Bau-Xi Gallery is pleased to present WASHED by Water, a group exhibition centered on the theme of water.

“The water understands Civilization well” famously states Ralph Waldo Emerson in his seminal poem, Water about the independence, transcendence, and spiritual union of water and society in the nineteenth century. An essential life giving element that is as precious a commodity as it is a dangerous and volatile source of destruction, water has an ever more complicated relationship with civilization today. If once, society valued the element for hydration, ablution, regeneration and transportation, water has become an inexplicable source of power rife with political, financial and environmental contention. Never has society better understood the importance of water and simultaneously taken it for granted.

WASHED by Water will explore the metaphorical, environmental, material significance of water and bodies of water as they inform visual culture in the twenty-first century.  Artists will look at the different formations water takes and offer work that comments on their own unique relationship with the element. Special attention will be paid to depicting the aesthetic quality of the element – how to capture its various color, its fluidity and its ability to reflect light.

 

Eastside Culture Crawl

Please join me for the Eastside Culture Crawl, Vancouver’s annual visual arts festival! I will have some new work and works in progress––drop by my studio at #322b-1000 Parker Street and say hello.

ValNelson-copy-detail
There will be so much art and craft to see, by talented local artists and artisans, opening their studios all over the Eastside neighbourhood. Please visit the Crawl website for maps, previews of artist work, and special events. See you there!

Thursday November 19, 5-10 pm

Friday November 20, 5-10 pm

Saturday November 21, 11-6

Sunday November 22, 11-6

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. 🙂

loosen-up-title-card

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.

ValNelson-V5Y-web
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:

ValNelson-A-Room-in-Mount-Pleasant-web
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.