Jasper; a Plein Air Painting Adventure – Part Two

I often daydream about attending one of the very popular plein air events such as the Plein Air Convention which is run by Plein Air Magazine. The one in 2018 would be especially sweet because it will be in New Mexico – the light, the culture, the memories! However the cost is prohibitive. Therefore next year we will likely stay closer to home and keep our eyes out for a more local plein air event(s) to feed our need for both painting opportunities as well as art socializing.

Back to Jasper… our passes in hand, we headed up one morning to the stunning Mt. Edith Cavell and Angel Glacier. Our memories failed us this time because neither of us remembered that there was a rather steep 1km-ish hike to get to the best spot to view Angel Glacier. Normally this would be just fine but with the amount of painting equipment we choose to take with us, it was quite a slow-going trek! Determination to paint in front of the glacier pushed us on and once we were set up above and behind the place where most of the tourists would be standing to view the glacier, we were happier than we could ever be. More than once on the Jasper trip I said `There is no where I would rather be right now.` in my outside voice!

 

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We spent 4 hours painting, smiling and chit-chatting with interested people, watching the chipmunks and listening to the cracks and groans of the glacier. There really is nothing as in-the-moment as trying to capture in paint the stunning views of a living and moving glacier. This was THE moment of the trip which we dreamed of and it was better than either of us could have imagined. It was exhilarating, humbling, exciting and exhausting all at once, for 4 hours! The resulting paintings for both of us were not what we would consider gallery quality but for me at least, it captured the intensity of the colour, size, shape and energy of the place. I do intend to use this painting as a reference for later works:

Angel Glacier
Angel Glacier, plein air oil, 10″x12″

Overall, the weather cooperated when we were in Jasper, with only a day or so of rain and a couple days of smokey haze. We used the new Best Brella when the rain threatened or sunshine was prohibitive. I’m still learning that even if the sun is behind me, it’s important to put the brella up because my piece will end up being too dark since a palette and canvas in full sunshine is way brighter than you think it is when you take it inside.

Another challenge to painting outside is having to chase the light; On one scattered clouds afternoon, there were moments where the mountain in front of us had these incredible bursts of light and then in the next moment, they were gone. This is usually a frustrating experience but this one afternoon I relaxed and used speed and memory to capture the light I wanted (as I listened to Andrew swear under his breath as his highlight disappeared). My resulting painting ended up being one of my favourites:

Pyramid mountain
Pyramid Mountain, Jasper Alberta. 5″x7″ plein air oil

I have a few more pages of my trip diary to go through to bring more stories to these pages. My holidays are coming to a close, so I want to capture the highlights for you and for myself so that when I am getting comfy in the studio, I will remember how much I LOVE painting outside. So, more to come…

Jasper; a Plein Air Painting Adventure

PART ONE

Following an eventful 3 days of travel (through active wildfire territory) and settling in to our campsite home for 10 nights (including sleeping in the car for a portion of one night due to our extreme lack of preparation for the cold that Jasper sees at night in the summer), we finally painted!

Up cold and early we lined up in front of the tourist information centre that morning to get tickets to visit Mt. Edith Cavell later in the week. There is construction happening there so officials are timing and limiting the amount of people allowed up at one time. While it was a teeny bit of a pain to get the tickets, they did well in setting limits because the flow of people was not too much, not too little. More to come about that in subsequent postings…

In the meantime, our first painting stop was to be Athabasca Falls. However, our slight delay meant the number of tourists that morning was high and we couldn’t find an out-of-the-way spot to paint so we just took a few reference photos for later painting. Instead, we headed back on the road and stopped at the side of the highway to paint the Athabasca itself instead. Note: The BC wildfire smoke had followed us into Jasper, so visibility of the surroundings was limited. It therefore made sense to a paint close view rather than distant. We had a successful couple hour session, during which we met and chatted with a nice young fellow who was working the river boats this summer. This is one of the asides of painting en plein air – you meet some characters!

We both had a successful and enjoyable first painting session and were excited for more so we headed to the river again beside Becker’s cabins. I was distracted by the highway, stopping tourists and fear of bears so my results were not worth keeping. Andrew had better luck. The thing about bears in that location is that the previous time we visited Jasper we had dinner at Becker’s and the highlight of the night was watching a bear traverse the hillside across from where we were now painting. Bears – they are very real.

The next day was when we found a painting location which we returned to whenever we were undecided about where to paint. This meadow at Jasper Park Lodge became our go-to spot even just for chilling a bit with stunning views of multiple mountain peaks and the Athabasca.

Painting at Jasper Park Lodge Meadow
Painting at Jasper Park Lodge Meadow
Pyramid mountain from Jasper Park Lodge meadow
Pyramid mountain from Jasper Park Lodge Meadow

One 3 hour painting session at this meadow was where I put into practice a tip from Richard Schmid’s book, Alla Prima. The tip is to paint what’s most important first. And it seems to work for me! Particularly because I tend to become less focused as a session goes on, getting what I want to say down first means that the painting is more likely to be successful even if it is just a sketch of what I found most important about the scene.

While we were so close to the Jasper Park Lodge that day we decided to check out Mountain Galleries. And it was there, in such a beautiful lodge, in the midst of several stunning pieces of art, that we spied a painting by Josh Clare which moved us both, very much. (Truth be told, Andrew pointed it out and it took a second viewing on another day for it to hit me – that rare art experience feeling). The painting captured the light focused on a red earth mountain peak. Unfortunately I can’t find an image of it online. Andrew and I pondered the purchase of this painting for a couple days and… I’ll tell you more about that in my next post. Oh yes, there are plenty more painting adventures to revisit!

Summer of Art 2017

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Plein air painting in East Sooke. A beautiful day!

Once again, summer in Victoria means a multitude of art walks, talks, tours, shows, exhibits and extravaganzas! As the weather finally warms and we get excited about summer holidays, my husband, Andrew Bartley and I are thrilled to be participating in a few of the many community art events around town.

The first show is already up and ready for you to visit; the Summer Small Works show in the Massey gallery in the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (AGGV). There is some lovely work in the show this year, which officially opens this coming Thursday, June 15 from 6-9pm. One thing special about this show is that you can purchase and take the work off the wall right away so you don’t have to wait all summer for the show to end before popping that piece above your couch! Keep your eyes open for Andrew when you are at the gallery because he recently began working there part time – he will be the one with the big smile and small name tag. He’s thrilled to be spending more of his days in the presence of art and the people who love art.

The AGGV also holds the Annual TD Art Gallery Paint-In, which is in it’s 30th year this summer. 30! It’s a fantastic event and we are sad that we are going to miss it this year due to other commitments. There’s so much to do that it’s hard to choose! I do hope anyone who hasn’t attended this event  will give it a try because it’s one of the most impressive art events in Victoria and if you are a regular – enjoy it for me, please!

Sooke Fine Arts Show

July 28 – Aug 7 from 9:30am – 4pm

This giant art exhibit is a summer staple. We always put our best foot forward for this show and hope you will join us there. We both have work in the show and it’s always fun to find them among all the other great work to see how they stack up (not that we’re the least bit competitive…). Every year I am awed by the sheer amount of work that artists make on Vancouver and the Gulf Islands. The show gives you a sense of what’s happening in the art community and it’s always great to see new artists join the regulars. Don’t miss out on almost 2 weeks of music, art, demonstrations, food and an amazing gift shop where you can pick up a small piece of local art (and art cards galore!) at a fantastic price – remember, Christmas is only 6 months away!

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Sidney Fine Arts Show

October 13, 14, 15

While this is not a summer event (perhaps an Indian summer event?!), the artists have to start ramping up to it in the summer. The Sidney Fine Arts Show is a highly reputable event which Andrew and I have both entered this year. Even though we don’t yet know if our work is in the show this year, we encourage you to attend regardless because the work is always of the finest quality. It is on for only 3 days so it will go by in the blink of an eye if you’re not careful!

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Our Artist Web Sites

Faye Hoffman and Andrew Bartley

Of course, our work is always on display on the interwebs year around. I write a blog about my art process and as Andrew and I work towards our goal of having a 2 person exhibition in 2018 or 2019, new work will appear on our sites. We have a summer plein air painting journey planned and expect to return with several small pieces from which to develop larger works for the exhibit. Keep checking back to see what’s developing and if you’re in the neighbourhood (Uplands/UVic), please get in touch for a studio visit. We also intend to be in one of the many art studio tours next year so you can stop by then and we are always open to taking on commissions. In fact, we’re both working on a portrait commission right now and remember, Christmas is only 6 months away! 🙂

Enjoy your summer of art, everyone!

 

 

About me. Not about me.

My husband, Andrew Bartley, sent me a link the other day to a short video about the life and work of Jennifer Worsley. When I viewed the video I will admit to already being in a really good mood… so this video was hugely inspiring for me! Andrew and I purchased one of Jennifer’s woodblock prints a couple years ago from the Davidson Gallery in Seattle. It is on the wall in our bedroom so I see it several times a day and it has become a part of my psyche. Up until Trump came into office and the Canadian dollar sank so low, we took an annual trip to Seattle as a nice little break for normal life and a chance to check out galleries and markets in Seattle. It was Andrew’s annual birthday gift, which also included the purchase of a reasonably priced artist’s print. We have a lovely little artist print collection now but I don’t see it expanding until the political and financial situation in the USA settles down a bit.

But I am getting off topic. The video about Jennifer and her work has inspired me to start documenting Andrew and my own adventures in plein air and studio art making. We have some camping/painting trips planned this summer and I need to remember to take my documentary hat along with me! It is our goal to come back from those trips with plenty of very small studies for much larger studio landscape paintings to be done over the winter months. And then we want to have a 2 person gallery show. We’ve both been in the same group exhibits and I’ve had 2 person shows before but we’ve never shown together. So the video will be a way to capture the steps towards our goal as both a promotional piece and a way to remember our adventures. Life feels like it is getting shorter now that I am over the hill and on the way into retirement. I don’t want to wait until retirement to have all the fun! You never know what will happen between then and now so let’s do it and document it! Now!

But I am again getting off topic. And I’ve had too much coffee this morning. So go watch the video of a wonderful artist enjoying her life. It’s great!

Coquettish

Things really heated up inside the studio and out this past long weekend! I had 3 days in the studio and it was fantastically creative and productive! While I did wander out to enjoy the sunshine on the deck and do some chores, I took the opportunity to work on a diptych and a portrait commission. The portrait commission is a surprise gift so you won’t see it until the recipient does – but it’s well underway. Actually, Andrew and I are both trying our hands at this portrait so the purchaser will have a few options to choose from and we both have a great model to work from.

But back to the diptych…

The Conversation
The Conversation, Diptych, 12″ X 24″ (unframed) Studio oil

I started out by painting the female member of this duo and titled her “Coquette”. And I was so happy with how she came out that it inspired me to create her male counterpart – “Coquet”. Together, they created a partnership which no longer seemed appropriate using those titles and so The Conversation was born. When I look at them, looking back at me, I imagine myself interrupting them as they speak closely in front of a painting at a gallery art opening. Theirs was an intimate exchange of mysterious, even suspicious nature and I had intruded.

They were great fun to paint and gave me special delight because it appears that I have finally learned how to control the technique. Using just one colour is very similar to drawing with charcoal – in fact, I sort of consider these painted drawings. I use my brush and a rag to push and pull the darks and lights of the oil paint just as I would use the charcoal stick and chamois to push and pull the charcoal.

The portrait commission has started in the same manner but I am going to push it beyond the one colour once I have the likeness where I want it.

The countdown to summer holidays and art shows is on now and if this past long weekend was a taste of what’s to come, it’s going to be a fantastic season!

Everybody Needs a Bit of Success

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you will know that I’ve been working on a few things:

1. a series of nest pieces

2. developing my monochromatic portrait skills

3. little art challenges to mix things up a bit

4. plein air and studio landscapes

Because I enjoy a variety of mediums and subject matter, my art and artistic intent has seemed scattered. I am working cleaning that up with these 4 directions. I am finding that desire to jump around is satisfied and I can still feel like I am making progress. When I am feeling let down by the progress in one area, I use the art challenges to find small successes. The work may not be what I would exhibit but for some reason they are more often than not surprisingly nice. The spontaneity apparently works for me. I should figure out how to channel that into my other work.

As summer approaches we will be painting en plein air more, especially when vacation days roll around. I said in the car to Andrew this morning that I would like to develop a consistent method for painting in the field which yields more successes. I feel like every time I go out that I am starting over as a young student. While the young part is good, the student part is not. I know I still have a thousand lifetimes of skills to learn but I am now a practicing artist. And the work should reflect this.

Except the little art challenges. For them, I get to paint donkeys and puppies!!! Why not?!

I also recently added a background to my 2nd nest painting. That process was interesting because I almost had to repaint it all in order to get the background to not look stuck on. Live and learn!

3 pieces have been accepted into the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria‘s Summer Small Works show coming up in June:

 

And submissions are being readied for Sooke Fine Arts and Sidney Fine Arts. Andrew and I are debating whether to enter the The Salt Spring National Art Prize. We shall see…

Intentional Art and Self-Sabotage

One of my major challenges as an artist is the ability to create intentional art. What I mean by that is for example, the monotone painting I created this past weekend (below) was the result of the desire to do something different -a challenge of sorts. I painted this one and was very happy with it so I attempted to do another without success. And then I tried another and another and… another with no success.

I Remember.
I Remember. Oil on canvas board. 12″x12″

I often find this happens; when I try something new, I am happy with the first piece and it goes downhill from there. Therefore my pieces tend to be one-offs – individual works not related to another other than being a landscape or a portrait or… etc. (There is a current exception right now with the nest series.) I would like to change this. I would like to know what I want to achieve and be able to achieve it.

Well, I say that… and yet I also love these surprise successes because they push me in new directions (the monoprint challenge is a good example). I am capable of improving, I just jump around a lot. And I feel like I have an excess of work which ends up on the trash can though Andrew tells me I’m likely not alone.

If I were capable of creating a success every time – would I get bored with making art? Or is that mindset stopping me from achieving that goal?

What I know right now is that I really, really want to make more successful monotone portraits.

Art and Commerce

It is springtime in Victoria, which means all the summer/fall exhibitions are sending out their calls to artists for submissions. Andrew and I are taking a year off from participating in the AGGV Moss St. Paint-in. I’m not entirely comfortable with that much social interaction (read: introvert) and the date of it lands just before we go on vacation so we will have our hands full. However, we will be submitting to the Sooke Fine Arts Show again this year and we’re considering submissions to the Sidney Fine Art Show and the Salt Spring National Art Prize show.

Additionally, this year I am sending this piece to the AGGV Art Rentals and Sales. It is interesting to think of a piece being rented out and going to new locations. I’d like to strap a camera to it to see where it ends up!

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Along the low sundown, 12″ x 36″, Oil on board

The rental program only accepts larger pieces (minimum 30″), so I’ll have to work on a few more biggies. I’ve also submitted 3 pieces to the AGGV Summer Small Works Show and Sale which I would love to participate in.

All of these submissions and events add up to time spent getting the work out there versus creating it. Our summer vacation will be spent almost entirely en plein air, so I hope to make some progress on the quality of my on location painting skills.

Summertime, when the livin’ is easy.

Where There is the Guise of Safety

My nest work continues. I’ve moved into oil painting with them and have on the easel right now, a still life with; nest, my favourite little golden bowl and a small brown egg. In bed last night as our bodies and minds settled down, I asked my husband: “How long before an egg goes bad outside of the refrigerator?” His response: “You probably won’t know unless you drop it.”

Still life with nest, bowl, egg. Set up and ready to go.
Still life setup with nest, bowl and egg.

A curious thought occurs to me – is the nest a reflection of what I am doing and/or want to do in life? Am I actually nesting?

My favourite place in the world is home right now. It hasn’t always been – when I lived in View Royal and was single, my favourite place was the Esquimalt Lagoon. I painted and played there – a few romances included and I spent untold hours walking in meditation with Thich Nhat Hahn along the slippery path beside the lagoon and up into the neighbourhood. I learned how to create a safe, warm and comforting place within my own self on that beach. With years and marriage and a new home between then and now, I see and feel that I’ve externalized a lot of my comfort.

In Colorado, I made each of my apartments and house my nest along with a routine of life drawing in a small art school which gave me repetitious, constant comfort. In Utah I lived in a hotel for 2 weeks and then in an empty apartment for a month before my belongings made their way down. I remember immediately feeling more myself when my things arrived – it wasn’t even a lot of stuff – but there were within it little reminders of who I am and where I’ve been. Aren’t we all made up of a collection of disparate memories, knowledge and hopes? My nest had arrived.

I am a person of routine and I am always comfort-seeking. I take a lot of my comfort from my husband and home now but I still have to gather within myself the pieces and parts which make me, me. Perhaps the nest is my perfect metaphor.

Or maybe I just like the feel and balance of messy line work which leads up to a finished, tighter image or self; externalized.

However, our town home is not somewhere that Andrew or I ever imagined ourselves living, let alone nesting. It is so much more upscale than we were used to but it makes so much financial investment and artistic space sense that it just works. And yet it is tenuous because it does push our financial boundaries. If one shoe falls, we may have to abandon the space for a much smaller nest. (Cross your fingers it doesn’t). You can, however, say that about any home we would own OR rent. We all (mostly) have to pay those bills and learn to live with the fact that the nest could fall apart at any time – and that knowledge is a process of letting go even if it doesn’t happen.

The looseness of the lines perhaps reflects the tenuous nature of anyone’s employment, relationships, life situations. We all live on the edge of it all unraveling into a mass of twigs and we all have the capability of walking away with comfort within ourselves.

Still Life With Nest, Oil on board, 12" x 24"