Friday, 26 June 2015

Favourite Artists

Blog 25

When I wrote last week’s blog about Antoni Gaudí, I started thinking about the artists that have influenced me with regard to my painting style. A couple of names came to my mind, not all of them were famous artists. Some influences were more obvious than others.

All of my teachers have influenced me, along with my painting buddies. Being with them on painting trips and seeing first hand how they work certainly has an effect on my painting style. The agreement on a painting location can create a mutual influence. We look for a place that excites all of us. Sometimes, a choice might suddenly provide an image you would have missed on your own. I enjoy looking at the focus each of us picked for their painting. Sometimes, the the similarities are astonishing, other times everyone picked a different part of the scene in front of us. While witnessing each other’s struggles and successes as well as during the day’s reflection, you get new ideas and insights.

There are many examples in art history where painters have influenced each other to help each other grow. However, I don’t want to talk about my contemporaries today but about the masters who have inspired me. I have already mentioned Frida Kahlo and Emily Carr in one of my May posts. This time I am looking at the four other painters who have inspired me.

Waterlilies,  acrylic on canvas, 18" x 24"
First of all there is Claude Monet. I love the light and colours in his paintings. I admire that he painted the same subject over and over again to study the change in appearance at different times of the day and season. This is something that fascinates me whenever we return to Kamouraska. No matter how often I paint a certain scene, it always looks different due to the quickly changing light and the tides.

However, when I took a workshop on his way of painting, I realized that I did not enjoy his technique at all. I gained immense respect for his use of small, thin, yet visible brush strokes which give the illusion of movement, but had a hard time staying patient while using the short brush strokes. It was hard to put the colours next to each other without blending them.

Ottawa Valley, acrylic, 16|" x 20"
Then there is Vincent van Gogh. I just love his bright colours and the wild movement in his paintings. His strong brushstrokes let you feel the energy and passion van Gogh put into his paintings.You can feel the urge he had to express himself through his art. This is an energy I would like to put into my paintings because this energy is what the viewer feels when he looks at the finished painting.

The Front, acrylic on canvas, 22" x 28"
When I was introduced to Joseph Mallord William Turner, the “painter of light”, I was captivated by the luminosity of his skies. Since then the design of my skies became very important to me. I particularly enjoy his technique of painting layers over layers with very loose brush strokes creating lots of movement. His technique is especially useful whenever I only have short periods of painting time

The Red Tree, acrylic on board, 8" x 10"
Last but not least, there is Tom Thomson. When I paint outside with my painting buddy Janis, it takes me a lot longer than her to capture a scene. This is due to our different temperaments and painting styles. What I learned during a Tom Thomson workshop is that he used his time on site to capture the essence of the scene with quick thick
strokes. He did not aim for a finished painting. If he liked a certain scene, he went back to his studio and painted it on a larger canvas. This was a big revelation for me, one I have to remember constantly. It is easy to forget sticking to the essence when you are confronted with an overload of impressions. I love the energy that is captured especially in his sketches with the help of bright colours, and thick brush strokes which express movement.

Even though the four painters have different painting styles, they all managed successfully to capture the essence of a scene and the energy of the moment. They completely immersed themselves in the process of painting so that you can feel the physical sensation they felt when they painted their pieces. This is something I aim for: to be fully in the moment, to simplify a scene to keep the focus on the things that are important. An image is so much more powerful when you keep the big picture in mind by eliminating the small and unimportant stuff.

I am always open to learn something new. Incorporating new techniques or materials into my art helps me to grow and hopefully keeps my art from growing stale. It is a life-long process and I am excited about new possibilities and challenges.

If you enjoyed this blog and would like to get more information about my art, I encourage you to sign up to my monthly newsletter on my website The newsletter is published on the last Wednesday of every month. When subscribing, you will automatically receive my free eBook “I Am Ready To Paint But Where Do I Start?”.

If you know someone who might also like to read my blog, please share it. Thank you in advance for helping me to reach a bigger audience.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Antoni Gaudí

Blog 24

La Sagrada Familia
This coming Sunday, Canadians celebrate their dads on Father’s Day. In Germany, Father’s Day is always celebrated on Ascension Day. This is the day, Jesus ascends into Heaven. It is the Thursday forty days after Easter. Ascension Day is a federal holiday in Germany.

As I have only done some small sketches of my father so far, I figured I will write about my favourite artist. You probably expected a blog about one of the painters I featured in one of my “Painting Like Famous Artists” workshops but my favourite artist is an architect, like my father. An architect who died on June 10, which is the same day my dad was born less than a decade later. I am talking about Antoni Gaudí i Cornet ( 25 June 1852 – 10 June 1926), a Spanish Catalan architect from Reus.

Gaudí's work was influenced by his three passions in life: architecture, nature, and religion. Under the influence of neo-Gothic art and Oriental techniques, Gaudí became part of the “modernisme” movement with his organic works inspired by nature.

Casa Batlló
To him, originality meant returning to the origins. He used geometric forms from nature like curves, parabolas, and hyperbolas. All elements were balanced and did not need supports. In Gaudí’s opinion, an artist’s task is to create works full of life and harmony. He looked for inspiration in nature to recreate movement and colour in the elements of his buildings. 

He used brick, stone, bright ceramic tiles, stained glass, carpentry, and floral or reptilian metalwork to create this colourful harmony. By recycling pieces of ceramic tiles as well as broken cups and plates discarded by several Spanish manufacturers he was far ahead of his time. He also used building materials according to the climate making it possible to ventilate a building without opening windows. He used movable walls, garbage chutes, and underground parking.

La Sagrada Familia
Most of Gaudí's works are located in Barcelona, including the still unfinished cathedral “La Sagrada Familia”. Several of Gaudí’s buildings have been granted World Heritage status by UNESCO: the Park Güell, the Palau Güell and the Casa Milà, the Nativity facade, the crypt and the apse of the Sagrada Família, the Casa Vicens and the Casa Batlló in Barcelona, together with the crypt of the Colònia Güell in Santa Coloma de Cervelló. His work continues to stand out because of Gaudí’s vision and his contribution to architecture.

La Sagrada Familia
When I learned about Gaudí in school I was fascinated by the forms and colours. I always had a certain aversion to the block shape of houses and rooms. Gaudí’s round shapes, his use of colour and different materials evoked my curiosity. I even wrote a big essay about him and his buildings. I was lucky to have seen some of his buildings when I visited Barcelona as a teenager. I was excited to see the Casa Batlló and the Casa Milà but I was in awe when I saw the cathedral “La Sagrada Familia”. The vision he had for this building is so much bigger than one person can execute. Recently, I saw an interesting documentation about the building called “Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation” on Netflix.

Casa Milà
As a painter, I can certainly relate to Gaudí’s search to depict life’s beauty and harmony in his works. This feeling is certainly reflected in my artist statement:

Whenever I look around me I am amazed by the beauty of nature, its ever changing colours and movement. With my paintings I try to interpret this beauty to prevent it from fading - like a moment frozen in time.

I enjoy painting outside while breathing in the fresh air, listening to the sounds of nature at different times of the year and spending time with like-minded artists. The Canadian landscape offers not only diversity but also big challenges to the artists when wind, rain, snow, and extreme temperatures make plein air painting difficult. It also inspires to work with whatever nature offers.

In my studio I try to recreate the feeling. Even when I paint something else but landscapes, I try to remember the way I felt about the subject and to catch and share this passion.

Do you like Gaudí’s style or do you prefer clear lines and sleek facades?

Friday, 12 June 2015

Alex Colville

On the Lookout, my Colville inspired acrylic painting showing my daughter

Blog 23

Last week, I mentioned to you that June is a prime month for weddings and told you the story behind the portrait I did of my husband and I on our wedding day. Remembering the moment, made me think about a Canadian painter and his 70 year marriage to to his university sweetheart Rhoda. I am talking about Alex Colville whose paintings are currently installed at the national Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. This is the largest show of his work ever put together. It contains many works from private collectors. The exhibition runs until September 7, 2015.

Rhoda Wright and Alex Colville met at Mount Allison University where they both studied art. At first, she was not too impressed with him but then they found out that they had much to talk about. What started out as a friendship turned into a deep love that grew with the years they spent together. Rhoda was not only Alex’ wife and mother of their four children, she also was his primary model and muse.

While it is clear that Rhoda was the model for most of his female characters, she did not feel very comfortable about being nude in many of the paintings according to an interview with Anne Kitz, the couple’s only daughter. However, she could not stand the idea of other women posing nude for her husband.

Many of his paintings explore the relationship between women and men. Colville often painted himself next to his wife. You get a glimpse into their relationship but he still manages to give the viewer the feeling that the people in the image are generic, it could be any other couple in the Colvilles’ spot as the people often turn their back or look away from the viewer.

Rhoda loved nature and was an avid athlete, a fact Alex Colville documented in his paintings. He painted her in all stages of life. You can feel the love and respect he had for his wife. Even though her body gets old and loses shape, she still is beautiful in his eyes and he manages to capture this in his paintings.

The exhibition is definitely a must-see for any art lovers, whether you are a fan of Alex Colville or not. I do not like his painting style and except for “Woman with Terrier” could not imagine acquiring one if his paintings for myself but I admire his compositional skills and cannot resist the pull of his art. Going through the exhibition, I feel like experiencing a big love confession from Alex Colville to his wife, giving us a view into their life and the intimacy of their relationship over the seven decades.

However, this is only one aspect of the exhibition. Not all the paintings show his love for his wife and the life they share together with their animals in their quiet neighbourhood. There are also paintings which leave you rather uncomfortable, where the air is filled with the suspense of what has happened or will happen, images which deal with the subject of power, trust, and mortality. They give you a feeling of watching a Hitchcock movie when the music gets dramatic and you know something bad is going to happen. Your imagination goes wild, and the excitement rises.

With his art, Alex Colville manages successfully to show both the dark side and mystery of life as well as its beauty and joy.

It is very interesting and inspiring that Alex Colville considers all ordinary things important enough as a subject for painting. I have to remember this during our next outing when we are looking for the “perfect” spot to paint. Often, we spend a lot of time searching for this spot. When you are in nature, you experience an information overload. However, often painting a simple scene has a much stronger impact than getting lost in the big picture.
One of the appeals of Alex Colville’s paintings is that he paints situations everyone can recognize. I can relate to his paintings because he paints what he loves and respects, and what captures his interest. I have been asked a couple of times why I do not paint what the audience is looking for, and I have always answered that I can only paint what attracts me and what I love because every painting contains also a part of me. I can only put energy in my paintings if they reflect my true self. This is something I always tell me students. It is wonderful to admire your neighbour’s art but everyone is different and that is why everyone’s art should be different. Similarities are possible, especially if you spent a lot of time painting together because you definitely influence each other but if you look carefully, you will feel the different energy depending on the painter’s personality.

Have you seen the exhibition already? If so, what was your impression? If not, are you planning to go? Why? Please feel free to leave a comment, either on my blog site or on my Facebook or Google+ page.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Wedding Day

Blog 22

When I set up my yearly schedule of posts I always check for holidays or other special events to create blogs that have some reference to those days. June is usually a very busy month with graduations, year-end celebrations, Father's Day, the end of the school year, the beginning of the holiday season. and lots of weddings. Did you know that June and August are the most popular wedding day months? As I have neither painted a graduation event or a portrait of my father or grandfathers, I decided to write about my own wedding portrait, actually a double portrait of my husband and I.

When I came to Canada in the spring of 1995, I entered the country as a tourist. My husband had lived in Canada since he was 10 years old. When we met in Germany, he wanted me to come with him to Canada. We became engaged, I left my job and rented out my apartment to explore the country he was raving about. We took the time to drive all the way from Toronto to Vancouver and back, and visited the Muskoka area. When he was offered a job in Ottawa, we decided to get married to make it easier for me to become a landed immigrant.

The acrylic portrait I did in 1996 was from a photo taken on our wedding day in Mississauga when we were posing for pictures on our tandem bike. As you can see from the photo of the painting, our first wedding day was not in the summer but in the fall. We were married in a small civil service with just our immediate family. My sister was my maid of honour and a friend from university was my husband's best man.

In Germany, you have to get married during a civil ceremony at the local registry office to make the marriage legal. If the couple wishes to celebrate a religious wedding, they will have a second ceremony at church, usually the next day but sometimes even months later. More and more couples opt only for the civil ceremony that is usually held with a few close relatives and friends as witnesses. Instead of the church wedding they decide to have a big wedding party at a community hall or hotel.

As I wanted to have a wedding with my relatives and friends, we had a religious celebration the next year in June in our local church in Germany, followed by a reception at a hotel. It was a beautiful wedding, but I never got the chance to paint another wedding portrait.

Even though the wedding portrait I did was done in my early painting days and has a couple of shortcomings, it always brings back the memories and the joy I felt that day. It was done with lots of love and the best I could do at that time.

What is the moment in your life that you would have liked to have preserved in a painting? Do you have pictures of this precious moment? It would be wonderful if you would share this moment with me.