How often do we pass up an opportunity simply because we are stuck in our own patterns? I have been guilty too often myself. As a child I was open to all ideas including fantasy and make believe. Now, as I grow older, I know that I have adopted certain perspectives on life in general and art in particular that aren’t easy to change. I watch my seven-year old granddaughter, lying on the floor with a colouring book, carefully applying colours totally different from reality (a red cow, green sky). I ask myself, why not? Getting too old for imagination? I hope not.
Whenever I am asked to comment on an artist’s work or a group of artist’s paintings at a meeting, for example, I listen carefully. I start in by asking questions, hoping to determine what advice might be helpful. When I hear defensive walls going up such as “but, it’s not finished yet” or “that’s the way it was” my impulse is to be polite and move on. But when an artist asks, “How would you handle this subject?” or “I think I need help with design, don’t you?” my instincts tell me that they are looking for some fresh choices and I am pleased to be asked - especially when I feel that the artist is sincerely interested in my take. Quite often a simple question, turns into an interesting discussion.
Art is so personal. Relying on years of teaching and painting experience, I explain how I would approach the painting, offering possibilities to correct problem areas, perhaps suggesting ideas for a more dramatic approach by tweaking the composition – all in the form of choices for discussion. Even if the artist decides to reject any or all suggestions, in the end, they are farther ahead having seen their work through the practiced eye of another artist. Simply by asking.
It’s a two-way street of course. I get a lot of enjoyment from organizing the Manotick Art Association Plein Air program for example and dealing with the occasional request from a struggling artist. Each time we paint together I get to observe different painting approaches, I check out the latest art gizmos, and I try to understand how the others make time for their art with their busy lifestyles and commitments. It’s amazing.
Happy painting and exciting new choices,
A while ago, an artist, showed me his work and asked for some guidance. I had a look at their paintings on line and could see good evidence of sincere effort; we agreed to meet. I began thinking about what I should talk about when we got together. My train of thought drifted back to my early painting days.
It’s been forty years since I took up the challenge to become an artist, starting out with nothing more than an inspiration. At first it was reading art books, looking at paintings and rubbing shoulders with artist friends. Style couldn’t be taught, I was warned. You must study shadow effects, learn how to draw trees and become knowledgeable about the properties of paint, they said. And they were right of course. There is a lot to learn: the kind of knowledge that anyone serious about painting must cover. Much later, I would teach those basics to fledging artists at summer schools and workshops.
Experience is a great teacher; progressing in three different media, plein air painting, giving instruction and exhibiting at art shows eventually created more questions than answers. Understanding the importance of listening to one’s inner voice and learning to interpret takes on a new significance. Also, with practice comes the confidence of knowing that the painting will work itself out, and the expectation that it will reflect the desired intent (making a statement). Occasionally, I produce a work that surprises me; I may even feel that I have reached a new personal plateau. That’s why I continue to paint! The camaraderie of artist buddies and painting experiences are wonderful, but they come second to the satisfaction of surpassing myself in my work. . . .
OK, so this has been a nice journey down memory lane. However, I’m still unsure what to tell the nice artist that’s looking for some help with their work. I guess I will do what I always do: show by example, be honest and encourage them to seek their own way. The benefits that can come from a kind word and a positive suggestion can last a lifetime: I know because I have been helped by some very kind artists along the way too.
Charlie’s new work may be seen at The Ten Collective Show in Almonte, ON, April 4 and 5, 2020
Ah, the joys of plein air painting on a nice day! To be outside, immersed in the world of nature; struggling to find words that express impressions through the poetry of painting. It’s as inspiring as it is formidable. I love it.
Being a part of the MAA Plein Air group outings for the last four years, has allowed me to watch artistic talents grow and develop. Like the others, I, too, have learned many things from just being there, as I continue to strive for ways to improve my art. One major benefit to painting directly - whether from nature, life drawing or still life etc. - is that, occasionally, we create something that is beyond our normal grasp, and in surpassing ourselves we often reach a new personal level. We also learn from each, not-uncommon failure. Privately, we covet the hope that “our next painting will be our best one yet”.
If there is someone who would like to join our group next year, please see the Manotick Art Association website to read about the group and what you need to start. Send me an email to register. It’s that easy.
The painting, Floral patterns, is just one of a number of works that I painted last summer with MAA Plein Air. It was created on a foggy morning in the herbal gardens of La Fougèrès Restaurant in Old Chelsea Quebec, home also to Galerie Old Chelsea.
Floral Patterns will be on view at The 10 Collective Show, April 4 & 5, 2020 in Almonte.
There’s a feeling of winter in the air. The temperature is dropping. I just heard there's a forecast of snow. I see neighbours doing last-minute raking, closing their gardens and the warm hats and mitts coming out. The squirrels are hustling about everywhere too.
With remnants of fall colour clinging to bare branches and scattered along our walking trails and the forest floor, the first snowfall offers artists a special painting opportunity.
I came across a spot near Almonte several weeks ago before snow had arrived. It had all the markings of late fall in waiting. When the snow did appear, and I saw the sunlight filtering down through snow clouds, I knew I should head out with my paints. The location, along the side road that I had ear-marked earlier, was perfect with its mantel of new snow and I started in to paint. When I got back home I liked the feeling I felt, seeing it under proper lighting. So, after adjustments and some repainting , I signed it and called my painting Prelude.
Prelude 11x14 will be shown in the 10 Collective Show in Almonte in April 4 and 5, 2020.
Just finished framing my new painting for my booth at the Expressions of Art Show and Sale this weekend.
The 24x24 acrylic was painted at the award-winning Rideau Woodlands Ramble nursery near Burritt's Rapids in September with the Manotick Art Association Plein Air group. It was finished, later, in my studio.
Hope to see you at the show
Vernissage Friday Oct. 11, 7-9 pm
Saturday, Oct. 12, 8am – 4pm
Sunday, Nov. 13, 10am – 4pm
Carp Agricultural Hall,
3790 Carp Road, Carp, ON
This coming Thanksgiving weekend marks my 3rd participation in Expressions of Art and I am looking forward to being at my booth where I can show my latest work and meet clients and friends.
I first heard about the show when Rosy Somerville, Carp artist and teacher, invited me to participate in the Opening Ceremonies for the 2016 Exhibition, not long after Patricia and I moved into Amberwood in Stittsville from our home of 40 years in Manotick.
The thing that impressed me the most about Expressions, besides the spacious Agricultural Hall and large free parking area in the Carp Fair grounds, was the concept that all artists must apply and be juried every year. This means that there is turnover of talent as exciting new artists come along each year.
I am told that this exhibition began around 1991-92 when the West Carleton Art Society was in its infancy. From modest beginnings in the Memorial Hall in Carp and trying several other venues in the area at different times in the year, the organizers settled on the Thanksgiving Weekend at the Carp Agricultural Hall, still retaining the concept of juring the artists each year.
This popular show is open to everyone; there is no admission charge. You will find the 31 booths are spaciously laid out, making it easy to navigate around inside and meet the artists. The Carp Farmer’s Market will be open on Saturday morning as well for one-stop shopping.
Hope to see you there,
Expressions of Art 2019
Vernissage Friday October 11, from 7-9 pm
Saturday, October 12, 8 am to 4 pm
Sunday, October 13, from 10 am to 4 pm
Carp Agricultural Hall, 3790 Carp Road, Carp, ON
A few senior artists may remember the days when artists traveled to The Schneider School of Fine Arts at Actinolite, near Tweed, to paint and take instruction in the 1960’s and 70’s. I understand A.Y.Jackson taught there at some time. Later, the camp with its small cabins became Bridgewater Retreat where a number of us taught and where the East Central Art Association of Ontario (ECOAA) held regular weekend outings.
A little farther west on Hwy 7, the Queensborough road takes you north to the Hamlet of Queensborough. Anyone attending the Schneider School or Bridgewater Retreat would recall day-painting trips to Queensborough. We would set up our easels to paint the Black River waterfall and sawmill and the streets and houses and churches.
This year, the residents of Queensborough decided to hold a Festival to celebrate the many artists who came to draw, photograph and paint their town over the years. A call for paintings that depicted the village resulted in close to a hundred submissions including works by well-known artists, Don Fraser, Poul Thrane and others. There was even a painting by A.Y.Jackson. I brought a 12x16 that I painted at Chisholm’s Mill with Poul in 2009. All of the work was set out, tastefully, in the Orange lodge for everyone to view. The weather on the day of the Festival, Saturday August 24th was perfect. Some artists, including myself, set up around the Hamlet and painted.
It has been 10 years or more since I was there, very little has changed. Meeting two dear friends, Poul Thrane and Audrey Ross, was incredible and brought back a flood of memories.
A BIG THANK YOU to all those that organized the wonderful exhibition and made everyone feel so welcome. Well done!
I bet you know someone who owns an art collection. You probably think they have expensive tastes. One thing for sure – they have artistic tastes. These days, art collections could include photographs, prints and other forms of art that don’t necessarily cost a lot.
What “Art Collection” suggests to me, though, is that each piece has been hand chosen, whether it’s an eclectic grouping, a few favourite artists or pieces acquired in travel. The thing that makes a collection valuable, financially, is the proof of providence and the name of the esteemed artist. However, aside from any commercial considerations, an art collection of any kind, selected piece by piece with care, can become a lasting treasure. It is something we were taught, way back, as children with our favourite toys.
I know that, as an artist, when I am invited to a home – or office for that matter – and I recognize an art collection of any kind, I am immediately struck with the care and choice of the work. An inquiry or two about any of the pieces, elicits a warm response right away, indicating that the owner takes much pride in showing them to me and explaining how each piece came to be acquired. It makes me feel very special to be included in my host’s hospitality: an experience seldom forgotten. And I know I am not alone in this regard.
So, how might one go about starting a collection? Sometimes it just begins with a picture that was passed on down through family or the result of a hand extended on impulse at an auction. We soon learn to enjoy a chosen painting or sculpture as it becomes part of our daily life; catching our attention in shifting daylight or in the evening room lighting. Over time we begin to consider things like spatial relationships and lighting choices to improve the overall effect as items get added.
By visiting art galleries and auctions and getting to know artists and their work, we join many others, happily involved in discovering other pieces that inspire them; each in a very personal way.
It was so great to see so many out to the first MAA Plein Air event at the Dickinson Mill in Manotick - Charlie
For someone just starting out painting plein air, the experience can be intimidating. I remember the time and place of my first try, well. But with time and patience, it can be rewarding. Here’s some of the reasons why I look forward to painting outside every time I can.
When I paint outdoors my goal is always to express with a paintbrush something about the landscape that I can relate to, as opposed to working from a photograph or other media. When I am outside, my eyes record hundreds of images. I look up into the sky and sense the dark branches against moving clouds, I look down into the shadows at my feet and as my eyes adjust to the dark, I see saturated colour and the result is an impression. To paraphrase my artist friend, Virginia Trieloff, “What the eye perceives and the mind beholds are two different things”.
When I find a location I like, I take the time to look all around, I squint to see patterns and values and think about what I’d like to express in a painting. As I begin to analyze my thoughts, I move details around, eliminating some, changing others until a plan unfolds - a sketch book is helpful. Once I have a composition worked out, I get out my paints and become completely absorbed in painting and time literally flies by.
Plein-air paintings aren’t always successful. There are, in fact, many failures: the result of so many elements from which to choose and any number of distractions - some of which make great stories! But often enough, in the two to three hours available while the light is steady, I get a painting that speaks about the thoughts and feelings I experience from being there. Without exception my plein-air paintings, good or bad, have more life and vitality than any photographic record I could take. That is why I keep returning to the outdoors with my paints.
Back to my studio I assess the work. I scrape off the bugs, decide if a different size canvas would work better, taking particular care to preserve the impression that I recorded outdoors, no matter how messy or incomplete the work. I don’t believe that art is so much about detail as it is about self-expression. Whether the painting is good or not, time will tell.
By organizing MAA paint-outs each Thursday morning, with the help of my friends, I hope that others will try the ‘Plein Air’ experience and that through time and practice they too may come to enjoy it as much as I do. Even after 40 years!
Good Luck and Happy painting!
* Reprinted from a Charlie's Blog 2010 and revised 2019
p.s. It’s always more enjoyable, and safer, to paint with other like-minded artists. Here are several groups that I paint with:
The Manotick Art Association (MAA), the East Central Ont. Art Assoc. (ECOAA), the newly formed North Grenville Artist Guild (NGAG) and Plein Air Ensemble. (PAE)
Too often I see artists: early in the game, bent on selling their work. I can sympathize. I know full-well the rush that comes from selling a painting to a happy client. But after many years of searching for better ways to express myself through my art, I have come to the realization that it is the painting process that gives me the joy and the purpose to continue.
It’s mostly about the many happy hours at my easel; the exuberance from watching an accomplished artist demonstrate a painting technique, at the front of a class, as if it were magic; the many painting trips with friends and new faces; instructing and demonstrating my art for other artists, and the pure joy that comes from learning to see by painting outdoors. And, I have discovered the satisfaction from painting something that I know is good - if only for me. I call it the truth.
For artists, finding themselves frustrated with endeavoring to sell their work, I say "Take some time to reflect on the beautiful journey of discovery that we, as artists, travel."
After 30 years of painting with Plein Air Ensemble, I still eagerly anticipate each trip, This time it is to Maniwaki, QC, where I will be joining 14 artists to paint the spring landscape. If I get a good painting or two, that will be a bonus. See Plein Air Ensemble.
Charlie also paints with the East Central Art Association (ECOAA). His most recent trip was to Algonquin Park, staying at the Algonquin Park East Gate Motel in April this year. See ECOAA