August 30, 2011

channelling pratt

That would be Christopher Pratt. No relation, unfortunately, but he and his wife, Mary Pratt, are Canadian art institutions. More on that later.

I have a secret desire to become a part of the great Canadian plein air landscape tradition. OK, only once a year, but I respect and admire the work of its practitioners and there's nothing so romantic as the idea of facing the elements with a beat-up pochade box and a flask of coffee. I love the tortured trees in the windswept Canadian landscapes of the Great Lakes, and my landscape style lends itself to such drama, but the only ecosystem on the west coast that really works for me is on southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, thick with my beloved Arbutus and Garry Oak trees. A summer afternoon on a deep, quiet lake in the British Columbia interior? Not so much. I was there for a week, though, and Adams Lake is remote and pristine and beautiful, so what was my problem?

I struggled with the first painting, and it wasn't just the fact that I was using oil paint. (I can do it better -- and faster -- in acrylic.) It was also the fact that it wasn't a composition I would have chosen under normal circumstances, but I was determined to soldier on. After all, western Canadian art galleries are chock-a-block with landscapes painted by artists who make healthy livings from both tourists and locals who like to see the same style and subject matter over and over again. Much of it is lovely, so why shouldn't I join the queue?

Once I'd finished with my first painting, which turned out fine but wasn't exactly what I was aiming for, I set about looking for another like it, thinking that all I needed was more time in the saddle. So I stuck my feet in the stirrups and painted ... and after an hour or two rubbed it all off. I couldn't even admit to myself how frustrated I was getting. At that point I decided I needed some perspective, and went for a little stroll to see if there was anything, object or scenery, that I actually wanted to paint. All I could find was this canoe, identical to my own, but a paler yellow. Compositions immediately started popping into my head, so I set myself up in front of it and was immediately transported. And as I painted I simplified the landscape and desaturated the colours very gradually until this was the result.

lonely canoe

Looking at it after I got it home I kept picturing the work of Christopher Pratt and Alex Colville, the enigmatic, cool and remote qualities of which I deeply admire. And I had to admit to myself that this was the most painting fun I've had in ages. So what's next I wonder?


dinahmow said...

You're back!
I have a "thing" about Arbutus, too. And I do tend to grind my teeth at the sort of landscapes we see everywhere.
So it's perhaps not surprising that the lonely canoe would be more likely to find a place on my wall than the "High Street popular" art.

Angela Recada said...

Your perseverance certainly paid off! You captured that canoe and scenery beautifully, but you also added an amazing atmospheric mood. Definitely enigmatic, cool and remote. Beautifully done!

nadine said...

I love your yellow canoe. I can picture it as a BIG painting on the end wall of a room. 8 feet by 6 feet.... :-)

Ponita in Real Life said...

The landscape painting is nice, but like you said, it seems they are churned out by the hundreds.

The yellow canoe, however, I love! Even more so that the background landscape is so lacking in detail. That's what makes it!! Great work, Andrea!!

andrea said...

Di: Nothing I didn't already know/suspect. :)
Angela: It was actually a relief to find a different approach. The first approach felt wrong to me.
Nadine: The wheels they are a-turnin'...
Ponita: I tried the minimalist background in the first so I really wanted to take it a step further. This subject matter was perfect for it.

Indigene Theresa said...

You know I love your work! This is beautiful, but doesn't give me the sensation I feel when I look at your symbolic works! Bravo on change.