Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Boost from Painters at Painters

Painting Outside: Rose Buds at the Front Gate.
Waiting for the Argyle Music Concert - Looking for light, medium and dark.

Recently I spent the weekend with a couple of arty friends at Painters Lodge in Campbell River, BC.  Every year, around 30 artists get together to paint plein air, give seminars and show their work to an enthusiastic mix of other pros, amateurs and appreciators. The weather was beautiful on the pebbly coast of Vancouver Island, looking across to Quadra Island. Bald eagles, seals, full moon, snowy mountains in the distance...we had the whole shebang. Seeing the talent of the gathered artists was a little daunting, but their really open and sincere attitudes was refreshing. To an artist, they seemed to be really happy to share tips, ideas and encouragement.

There were several key things I took away from the weekend:
1. Talent is important but no one improves without really dedicating time and focused effort. Sounds like a cliche because it is absolutely true.

2. The value of a painting is key. (and I don't mean money) Doesn't really matter if you are true to the exact colour but you have to get a range of light, medium and dark values to make a painting pop. Quick pencil thumbnail value sketches are a great starting point to see if the range of values is there. Squint if necessary.

3. Limit your colour palette. Things are less likely to get scattered if there are fewer colours.

4. And finally, do lots of painting from real life and if possible plein air rather than working from photos.

So in the spirit of lifelong learning, I continue to see it and sketch it.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tug Boat at Lonsdale Quay

Wonky Tug
I met with the Urban Sketchers today at Lonsdale Quay. There were about 10 of us, sitting on the deck near the fountain as tourists milled around. The pan pipe guy played watery music and the sun shone on us towards the end of the session. We had a good chance to show sketchbooks, swap tips and connect. What amazes me about sketching with the group, or even alone as it turns out, is that I don't feel self conscious at all. Once I get drawing, the people blend into the background and I become oblivious to whether anyone is watching or not. It is a little disconcerting when people stand in front of the view I am working on but they usually clue in when I start peering around them!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Waiting for Music

Quick and tiny (2 x 4 inches)
I was ten minutes early for a musical gathering this week. So I parked around the corner and quickly sketched some spring vegetation. I often pooh pooh the idea of carrying my mini Moleskine sketchbook and beloved Lamy Safari pen around in my purse. Before I leave the house, I can't imagine grabbing a few minutes to do a sketch. I have this false notion that I need time and intention in order to sketch and paint. But here is proof positive that I can quickly jot down a sweet and simple scene. I did not have my paints with me but, as I sketched I tried to remember the lights and darks. I added the green later at home. I was going to go back to it after the paint dried to add a bit more shadow, but I was worried that I'd lose the freshness. It's that conundrum about when to stop. In watercolour, the earlier the better I think.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Spring Afternoon in the Garden

May in my garden is the most beautiful month of the year. The winter gaps are miraculously filled with unfurling leaves, green shoots and fragrant blossoms. The spring parade starts in Vancouver in  January with early blooms on bare branches. But by May, the yard has hit its viridian crescendo. This is the month where I celebrate unending potential and enthusiasm before the dryer, less showy months of summer. So I spent an afternoon, basking in the first warm sunshine of the season. As I look at these sketches, I remember the day; the warm sun, the buggy and fishy activity in the pond, the smell of the air and the overarching green quality of the light.

Painting across the fold of my journal means that sometimes the paint from another page finds its way onto another. Such is the way of illustrated journalling. Nothing too precious. 

30 Days

Yet another attempt to do a small creative act everyday for 30 days. I was looking back through my illustrated journal this morning and found this entry dated April 8, with yet another pledge to myself about the daily discipline. I've been pretty good about the drawing and painting...and just plain terrible at the yoga and violin playing. Well, as George Eliot is quoted as saying, "It is never too late to be what you might have been." I have today and perhaps 30 ahead of me to hone my creativity. In the mean time, I'll celebrate the drawings I have done, by posting a few more here.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day 2013

Mom, you are a very creative person. You have made many wonderful things over the years to enrich my life.  Practical things and whimsical too; a hand embroidered tea cozy made from the remnants of the silk and brocade green wedding dress you sewed for me, hand printed baby clothes (remember the close encounter with a snarly dog for the ginko leaf?!), mini and full sized quilts, eyelash scarves with a few curse words thrown in, painted Christmas balls, a toll painted dresser, a doll of me emblazoned with tattoos, wearing my signature fleece vest, birkenstocks and red hat. The tattoos are quirky, considering the fuss you kicked up over me piercing my ears when I was 18. And no Mom, I don’t have any tattoos.

The really big deal is that you encouraged and inspired creativity in me all my life. And Erica and Brigit have had the full benefit of your quiet creative force, too. They stay up late at night, working away on arty pursuits. I sure wish we had lived closer so the girls could have had you at hand but summer days on the porch at Cypress made up for that. Your influence is so tangible that, this fall, following in her Grandma’s fabric footsteps, Erica will go to Capilano University to start a Costuming for Film and Theatre program. Wow.

So on this Mother’s Day, I post a page from my illustrated journal as I try to capture a couple of your projects in ink and water colour. I seem to have a procrastinator’s relationship with Canada Post, so please accept this Mother’s Day card via blog. Have a wonderful day. I love you. Susan

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Hutong Doorway

So here is an attempt at pure watercolour, no pen lines. I'm reading a great book about watercolour by Tom Hoffmann called Watercolour Painting. Brilliant title. Seriously, his paintings are loose and beautiful. His premise so far is that you have to see things in terms of colour values (light, medium and dark) and basic shapes. He has a lovely, underworked and fresh style, which I think is vital for lovely watercolour. It helps that the guy is a painting genius. Never mind. Here is my attempt at trying to keep things simple and trying to have three basic values

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Granville Island Urban Sketchers

Things are a little out of order. Never mind. Sometimes I get ahead of myself. A while back, I joined the Vancouver chapter of Urban Sketchers. This is a group of people who enjoy sketching out and about in the city and get together for camaraderie and a chance to share ideas and inspiration. It is a great way to see how other people work and what kinds of materials they use. We had a recent meet up on a rather cold day on Granville Island. Here are the drawings from that day.
Lovely, juicy Dandelions.
Harbingers of spring.

Corrugated metal and planters.
Suspended sail boat as my fingers froze!
Quick and unfinished.

Hanging out in New Westminster in the Sunshine

I had my car over in New Westminster getting some work done and it all took a little longer than expected. The good news is that I had hours to draw and paint in the sunshine. I started in the superb Westminster Pier Park facing the Fraser River. As tugboats moved log booms, the sky train made that distinctive high whizzing sound on the bridge above me. I decided to use the open length of my sketch book to try to capture the feeling of height. You have to glue the two parts together in your mind. It still amazes me that my eyes can see mountains under a bridge when my brain expects them to soar up into the sky. My mantra holds; See it. Sketch it. Yup, trust your eyes.
Top and bottom of the Skytrain bridge.

This was an odd scene of a boat filled with tires and floats, behind a chain link fence at the end of a huge empty parking lot. I did not quite capture the fence and it looks a bit like the blue banner is water. Never mind. I remember the scene and was drawn to the bright red roof with the bridge and mountains behind.
Nice colours and composition but confusing
scene. The blue is a banner in front of a fence.

 I spent part of the day in thrift shops, looking for costumes for the high school cabaret. I lucked out with these flapper shoes and sketched them as I drank a huge, strawberry milk, bubble tea. The people in the booth behind me joked with the waiter in Mandarin. The girls at the table in front of me chatted in Korean and ordered in flawless English. People's linguistic abilities are wonderful.
Flapper Shoes