After four wonderful days painting with the Plein Air Ensemble group in Westport, ON, all 19 of us packet our paints and headed home after breakfast. We were weary, yet feeling content from the long days at our easels on Foley Mountain and around the town, and yet fresh with images of evenings full of music and conversation with friends old and new.
Westport is situated in the Rideau Lakes District between Kingstown and Ottawa. It’s been years since I spent time there, back when I had a booth at the Rideau Valley Art Show that ran every summer for many years. I had forgotten just how paintable the town is with its numerous churches, waterfront docks, stores and quaint historic homes. On this trip we stayed at the rambling Cove Country Inn and Spa, dating back to 1876. The rooms were very comfortable, the dining excellent and the big country welcome, warm and friendly.
On two evenings we had art demonstrations by two capable Plein Air Ensemble members and on the last evening we were treated to the foot tapping gyrations of country and blues in the spacious bar and salon of the Cove. Even our very own Mary Moore nailed two renditions at the open-stage mike to choruses of rousing applause from a packed house. Absolutely memorable!
All agreed that, considering the comfortable, affordable accommodation, proximity to Ottawa and Kingston, and so many varied choices of places to paint, Westport was a great choice.
Now in my studio with four fresh Westport paintings propped up for inspection, I can sense the energy and exuberance felt as each one grew from an inspiration to composition to a painting on site. I can’t wait to begin to carefully rework them, correcting colours under studio lighting, and reassessing – a process that can take weeks at times. The last step is to add my signature at the bottom, but only if I feel confident that the work is truthful.
Plein Air Ensemble continues to be successful because it provides the opportunity for artists to work en plein air independently, without pressures of competition or judgement, and with time for discussion and exploring other painting options with like-minded artists.
Come On In! 20x20 acrylic on canvas. On a chilly October morning one can feel the warmth of the sun's rays radiating from the ancient stone walls of the historic Code's Mill Building in downtown Perth, ON. In the painting you can find the Big Ben Memorial Statue standing tall across the road in Stewart Park.
The painting began on this year's final outing of the Manotick Art Association's Plein Air Group. I set up my easel across Herriott Street, facing the Code Building with the sun warming my back; drawn there by a compelling vision of the warm respite offered through the inviting doors of the Fiddleheads Restaurant.
The rest of the MAA artists were spread out in Stewart Park painting other subjects. At noon we stopped by the Big Ben Memorial to admire each other's work of the day before proceeding to the comforts of lunch within.
Hopefully we will all be back next year.
Some of the plein air painting sketches I did on field trips with members of the Manotick Art Association this past summer will be on display at my booth at Expressions of Art 2017 in Carp this weekend. Each Thursday morning, starting in June, we would travel to preselected spots in the Ottawa area to paint the outdoors. There is always a nice mixture of seasoned professionals and biginners. Our final trip for this year was to Perth, ON last week.
Plein air painting is a great way for artists to learn to see colour and to practice organizing shapes into a meaningful composition. Artists new to painting outdoors can learn first hand from watching the way seasonned artists effeciently pack and layout their equipment and how they set up quickly to catch light effects before the sunlight and shadows shift around.
Not all plein air attempts are successful. Many artists, like me, take their work back to their studios to adjust it under studio lighting conditions. What we are trying to accomplish is to capture a record of the day, and our impression of the moment, in our own style. It's never easy - but oh, so satisfying when successful.
I will be showing my paintings for the first time at the West Carleton Arts Society Annual Juried Show and Sale - Expressions of Art 2017 - October 6 - 8 at the Carp Agricultural Hall. The show opens with a vernissage on Fri. Oct 6 from 7 - 9 pm and runs Sat Oct 7, 8 am -4 pm and Sun, Oct 8, 10 am - 4 pm.
This is a good way for me to meet new people, renew acquaintances and converse with clients who already have one or more of my paintings. Being an artist means spending a lot of time at an easel and with other artists on painting trips and meetings. Having my own booth to show my work and the time to talk art with clients and friends gives me an opportunity to keep a perspective on my painting progress.
It's a good time to rekindle friendships and make new friends too. If you have a chance to see the show, please drop by my booth and say 'Hello'
For more information on the show, go to westcarletonartssociety.ca
Plein Air Ensemble 30 years and Still Going!
I am very proud of the fact that Plein Air Ensemble, started 30 years ago next year, continues to organize spring and fall plein air painting trips for artists. I remember vividly discussing the idea over an extended lunch in Ottawa with two painting buddies, Andrew Lyall and Pierrette Dulude Bohay when we were thinking of ways that we could share our passion for plein air painting with other artists.
Originally, we pictured each of us demonstrating different aspects of outdoor painting in an outdoor setting. But after the first trip that we organized to Calabogie Peaks in the fall of 1988, we realized that many of the 22 attendees were competent artists and that what they really wanted was a few days of freedom from everyday life to paint outdoors and share experiences with other like-minded artists. The three of us understood, from personal experience, that being an artist can require spending many hours alone at an easel but even so, we acknowledged that there are many benefits from working along side othe artists: benefits such as learning through the exchange of knowledge and picking up new skills from watching others paint. Generally, most artists are happy to share what they know about art.
So the instructing idea got dropped and we decided to join in the experience ourselves. We also decided to invite artists recommended by other participants - with the proviso that everyone was expected to work independently. And we looked for interesting locations that would suit groups of artists.
The trips extended to locations in the Gatineau Hills, the Eastern Townships, Charlevoix and Quebec City. And after 13 years the organizing duties were taken over by artists Mette Baker, Deborah Czernecky and Malcolm Cowell, who directed the group for a further 13 years. During that time the name was changed from Artists Painting with Artists to Plein Air Ensemble to reflect the fact that a number of the participating artists also played musical instruments resulting in many evenings filled with music
In the spirit of sharing the work, Helene Martin and Kirsten Peters next took over the organizing duties for several years, and in July 2017, those duties were handed over to Mary Moore and Tom Lillico, the current administrators.
Sadly, two of the founders, Andy and Pierrette have passed. Yet, while the leadership of the group has changed, the trips continue without a break. Just thinking about those many trips brings back a flood of fond memories of painting in all kinds of weather, making new friends and talking art and playing music late into the evenings.
I am looking forward to the next trip: one with good friends, good painting opportunities and new experiences.
For more information, go to: pleinairensemble.ca
I am very pleased to have four paintings accepted for consignment in the commercial gallery space in the new Ottawa Art Gallery. The doors to the new Ottawa Art Gallery are scheduled to open in the fall of this year as part of the 150 years celebrations.
I have had my work represented at the Ottawa Art Gallery, art sales and rentals section (presently closed) for a number of years and await the opening of the brand new facilities with high anticipation. Pictures of the exciting new expansion can be seen at www.ottawaartgallery.ca
Watch for news media announcements!
You are invited!
Two Visions : an exhibition of paintings by Charles Spratt and Mary Dorland, June 3rd to July 7th at the Applecrate Gallery at 5530 Manotick Main St. in downtown Manotick. The Opening Reception is from 6 to 9 pm on Saturday, June 3rd.
The exhibition will include new paintings from my recent painting trip to Algonquin Park in April. The Park is one of my favourite places to paint and we were blessed to find spring conditions with patches of melting snow.
Ottawa painter, Mary Dorland, originally from Montreal, is recognized for her beautiful oils and pastels with scenes from the Kamouraska Region of Quebec and the Ottawa area.
Hope to see you at the gallery.
If I could choose one phrase to describe my work it would be contemporary impressionistic. Let me explain, but first, listen to the words of Virginia Trieloff, a friend who is much more versed in the subject of Impressionism:
Impressionism can be considered the first distinctly modern “ism”. Developed in Paris in the mid-1860s when scientific thought was beginning to recognize that what the eye perceived and what the brain understood were two very different things, its influence spread throughout Europe and the U.S. over the following 20 years. Painters loosened their brushwork, lightened their palettes to include pure, intense colours, and abandoned traditional linear perspective (the academic school) as they sought to capture the optical effects of light. . . to convey the passage of time . . . changes in weather . . . the sensory effect of the scene before them . . . the impression of a fleeting instant! To achieve this, the artist of the day not only began to paint the streets and everyday life of a Haussmannized Paris but went into the countryside painting en plein air. *
What a great description! It’s just the way I feel about my own work and it’s why I still have a passion for painting outdoors, en plein air as they say. Everything we see and experience is subject to our own subconscious interpretation. The illusion of a gigantic harvest sun rising over tree tops is an example. The sun doesn’t change size: our perception does. It is the impressions of the moment that motivates me to paint. When someone sees one of my paintings and is moved by the artistic statement, I really know my work is done.
Today artists have the opportunity of seeing the actual iconic paintings of the Impressionists. We can also study many modern art styles that followed: abstract expressionism, high-realism, abstraction etc. so it’s no accident that many of today’s paintings reflect these influences. Still, we are left to our own devices to explore and practice ways to express our day to day feelings about the beautiful and complex world around us. Plein air painting works for me because I get immersed in the outdoors where the shifting light and shadow, the smells and sounds carried on ethereal breezes and intense experiences of the moment can arouse memories, daydreams, feelings of longing and hope. Without a doubt, standing among the tall black spruce in the stillness of Algonquin Park never ceases to infuse me with an urge to pick up a brush and follow the energy flowing through my arm to the canvas before me.
Back in my studio I evaluate the plein air work. I choose a larger canvas where, under controlled lighting, I can expand on the energy and immediacy of the on-the-spot painting. Whether the final painting will turn out well, time will tell. But it only gets signed if-and-when I am satisfied that it is truthful.
I have never made reproductions of my work. Each painting is an original in the truest sense.
*Virginia Trieloff is a talented painter and curator. She studied Industrial Design at Surrey College of Art & Design in England (most famous alumna is Tracy Emin) and Fine Arts at OCAD in Toronto - 8 years' formal study. “I grew up with art and all the isms ... Fauvism, cubism, surrealism, expressionism and all the post isms ...”