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: email@example.com
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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. 🙂
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 : email@example.com
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.
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, whichVelázquez 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.
One 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.
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?
And 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.
Since returning home to Vancouver from Spain (which I’ll cover in another blogpost), I got back to my exploration of painting and drawing from direct observation, this time at i.e. creative, the workshop/studio on Granville Island of an art school alumni friend, Cheryl Hamilton. She and her business partner, Michael Vandermeer, make public art, and I’ve always enjoyed their witty kinetic sculptures they made for the entrances to Science World and Ocean Concrete, which to me are like large-scale drawings in space.
When I asked Cheryl if I could hang out in their studio to make a painting of their activities, she and Mike were completely trusting and supportive of the idea, and welcomed me to stay for as long as I needed to make my work.
My first visit was for scouting and planning where to put myself and my easel. After making a quick sketch I could see that the best painting place was at the back of the shop. It was a good vantage point from which I could take in activity around a large steel pole that thrust back toward the front windows, and I could paint there while not interfering much with the studio’s operations.
I really love this angle, but I couldn’t physically fit in the easel, painting gear, and my body at this exact spot. So I opted for a shift three feet to the right, where I could show more of the space, and include the bright light from the windows.
i.e. creative always has several projects on the go. During my painting sessions, Cheryl and Mike were in and out of the workspace, sometimes meeting at the big table in the shop, sometimes upstairs in the office; they planned project logistics, met with clients, wielded power tools and prepped materials for casting, mentored Emily Carr University students, and fielded questions from visiting tourists. Somehow throughout their busy days they also managed to fit in polishing and welding jobs for a metal parts foundry, and grab some friendly conversation with their Granville Island artisan neighbours who occasionally dropped by.
Meanwhile, the polishing of four long steel poles for a large-scale artwork in Steveston was among the works in progress. Jeff, the studio assistant, walked slowly forward and back along the first pole which was resting horizontally on supports. All day long, there was pressure on his right arm as he worked the handheld electric Makita polishing tool. Beneath his construction earmuffs he wore earbuds so he could listen to his Ipod, and over his face, a respirator and goggles (it’s not a good idea to breathe in steel particles). In my conversation with Jeff about the intense physicality of the task, he likened his body to a lobster, with one outsized claw.
My painting came together quickly, as I wanted to treat it much like a drawing with lots of white space.
One morning I arrived to find the artists out in the alley with a finished pole, treating its surface and washing it down. Its surface shone like a mirror. “How long will you be working on this?” I asked them. “About an hour,” Cheryl said. I quickly grabbed a large sheet of paper from my portfolio and some pencil crayons to draw gestures of the activity as they finished the cleaning process and wrapped the gleaming pole with layers of plastic sheeting for storage.
During one of their breaks Jeff and Cheryl were having a friendly chat about cooking, which seemed to be a regular topic of conversation in the studio. Jeff quoted a famous television chef who said “You don’t really know how to make something until you’ve done it one hundred times.”
On my sixth day, the painting felt near completion, so it was nice to have a little quiet time for contemplation to understand the last moves to make. The transitory feel of a sketch that I was aiming for called for a light touch. I brought in the ghost of a doorway and subtle outline of Cheryl seated at the table on the left-hand side. Full rendering of everything would have felt like overcooking this piece.
Cheryl said I was welcome to come back anytime if I need to do more work there. What I find myself reflecting on is how art and life at ie creative could flow so seamlessly in such a graceful way.
The past two weeks have been super interesting. I’ve been making a painting on-site in my local art store, Opus, on Granville Island. The staff there have been great in welcoming me as I test out painting live in a public space, to learn how the experience might affect my painting practice. Standing on a platform in the paper and sketch-book section affords me a high-angle view of the space, where I can get a bit of distance and a dynamic perspective of the aisles and shelving.
What interests me about this part of the store are the rhythmic patterns of different colored papers as they recede in space, and the wonderful childrens’ paintings hanging on the back wall below the managers’ office windows. I always find it interesting making paintings of paintings.
For quite some time now I’ve been wanting to act on the strong compulsion to be in the world as I render it; in contrast to the isolation of the studio and working from the flattened image of a photograph, I’m finding the immediacy of painting from direct observation to be incredibly energizing and challenging. And I’ve always loved a challenge!
The occasional conversations with interested passers-by is a welcome break from the focused intensity required to do the work outside of my comfort zone; and the happenstance chats with Opus staff throughout the day have enriched the experience––most of the people working there are artists themselves, so it’s lovely to hear a bit about their backgrounds, and share conversation about creativity, the value of time, some nuggets about the history of Granville Island, and how this month’s friendly goal-setting challenge of “28 days of art practice” has been helpful in encouraging them to draw or make something every day. The wall at the entrance to the store is gradually filling up with wonderful little drawings made over the past two weeks.
This new way of working has been a bit of a learning curve: the first week I painted four days in a row, then worked on another project and did some teaching on the weekend. The second week I painted three days, and by the fourth day I realized how challenging this process has been on my energies.
The heightened stimulation of this new painting situation, which in a way is a kind of performance, means I have to monitor how it’s affecting my physical well-being. On Wednesday night I slept twelve hours, and I then took it easy Thursday. I visited the store only in the afternoon to show the painting to a couple of artist friends, but didn’t paint that day. I’m learning that the time between painting is important, to recharge, think about the work and where it’s going, and what might come next.