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Artists in Flux

The last month or so has been a contradiction of sorts. A whirlwind of action paired with periods of stillness.

A good example of this is the last 2 days. We explored our new town by checking out a variety of services and then plein air painted on the Harbour Quay docks. We stalked our new little home, watching it from afar and being still in the neighbourhood to feel it out. (Something we should have done before purchasing but the real estate market isn’t great for a slow walk right now.) The streets are wide, quiet and lazy on these hot summer days (5 degrees hotter generally than Victoria).

We learned that pretty much everything you need to do can be found within a few minutes drive and a cross town trip takes less than 10 minutes, peak travel times. Coming back into Victoria was quite the contrast with long waits at each main intersection.

That was a whirlwind moment.

And now a waiting moment. I’ve done as many online changes I can before the move, or at least for now. And packing duties are thinning out. It feels too early to do a final clean yet.

I completed a painting commission (whirlwind) and am pondering/researching how to monetize our art activities. I will dig into that more once we are settled (waiting).

Come to think of it, this dynamic plays out when plein air painting as well; a rush to set up and identify my subject, a quick structural sketch for a good foundation, initial blocking in to set the tone and then… slow, thoughtful colour mixing and laying the strokes down. Pondering from a distance. Checking focal points and light. Enjoying the moment.

This recent plein air session included some wonderful chatting and joking with locals. Being new to the area let’s us introduce ourselves as not just painters, but new neighbours. We get to ask the naive questions and provide a listening ear for those who are out for social interaction. We met Wyatt, who has been in the town since the seventies. He grinned knowingly when he asked us if we had ever experienced winter there. And assured us of the safety of our new home, despite the rough edges.

We are already falling for Port Alberni. Our painting adventures have new ground to cover!

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This year the art events start early with the Gorge on Art festival on July 1. This is our first year taking part and while I imagined a lazy sunny day painting while the occasional folk wandered by (exaggeration), I am now hearing that this event has grown to more than 10,000 visitors and our weather is HOT. So… unless my dear Andrew Bartley intends to cover all the socializing, I’m going to have to put the brushes down and pay attention to the crowd while hydrating and sheltering.

As you can see from the studio shot above, preparations for all of this summer’s events involves stripping the place clear of all our new artwork. It looks so bright and white in there again! The worthy work has been framed, labelled, inventoried and boxed up, ready for new horizons. The not worthy has gone to the recycle bin. I do hope this year is as good or better for us in sales because… uh, well, doesn’t everyone need that extra cash?!

I’ve been letting this little dream enter into my psyche. The dream of taking a year off of showing to just paint. To build up that body of work I’ve been chasing. However, sales are now a big part of our cycle, allowing  us to stock up on supplies and do all that framing. Ah well, I have so much in life, this little dream will stay relegated to my brain to continue the dance of happy brain cells. Where would I be without a little dream taunting and teasing me into making more art?!

And speaking of making art… plein air painting has slipped into oblivion what with our little frame-it-ourself experiment. Which failed miserably. I can’t blame it all on that – getting ready to show in other ways has taken time and I’ve been suffering from allergies as bad as they were in Halifax. What we have to look forward to is painting at Friday’s Gorge event and then at the 29th Annual TD Art Gallery Paint-In on July 16. Then we have a month off of work and the world is ours. Hot dog!

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Try Something New

My first streetscape.

Headed Home, Studio oil, 8″ x 10″

Having just completed a large, complex piece (The Fall, below), I was looking for something smaller and simpler to finish up the weekend. I’m in love with the work of Seattle artist Robin Weiss, in particular his streetscapes. They feel so west coast and are not too tight, not too loose – they are just right. It’s difficult to describe why I am so attracted to them. He’s good.

I had sourced a couple street photos and chose a dusky, wet street scene. Jumping into the work, my thought was to just try it – what could happen?! Coming off what I thought was a successful painting made it easy to take that risk.

So began this new landscape; as simple blocking in abstract colours and shapes.


By the time I came up for air (or coffee, as the case may be), it was starting to come together nicely. It’s a very satisfying experience to let go of trying to make paint look like something and just put down shapes, colours, tone, and the spaces in between. A challenge in this one was to make those shapes look elegant in and of themselves. Sure, the finished piece looks nice but when I focus in on the brush strokes and small shapes, they are not particularly that attractive. This will be something to work on.

Since I enjoyed the process and the product of this one, I do believe there will be more streetscapes on the easel soon. Perhaps even a plein air version! Imagine that! I’m such a risk taker! 😉

It’s all great fun.

Here’s the larger piece I finished prior to Headed Home.

The Fall
The Fall, Studio oil12″ x 24″