Monday, January 30, 2012

Drive-by painting

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My mountains
Watercolour
©2012 Charlene Brown

Painting on location is the best way to ‘capture the moment’ of, say, the interplay of sunlight and clouds or the fleeting effect of wind on water…. and is definitely the most satisfying way to produce a landscape.
But often photos are needed to capture detail before the view changes – and, needless to say, that was the case here. I did not paint, or even sketch, this picture on location in my seat on a flight from Victoria to Calgary just before Christmas – I took a lot of photos of the rising sun hitting mountains I recognized as we passed Banff.  And a few of them turned out thrillingly well.  Do not read further, if you’ve never lived in Banff and aren’t interested in any of the following details about why I found my photos so thrilling…
The Continental Divide, which forms the Alberta/British Columbia border, runs along the ridge about 2/3 of the way down the picture. Mt. Assiniboine  is the dominant mountain in the lower third (British Columbia) of the painting, and Mt. Cascade is the focal point of the top part (Alberta).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another twentieth century flashback

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Fatehpur Sikri
Watercolour and crayon
©2004 Charlene Brown

November 24, 1996 began with a 250-kilometre drive from Delhi to Agra, followed by a full afternoon of magnificent Mughal architecture – first Sikandra, the last resting place of Akbar the Great, then the Taj Mahal in time to have a look around while it was still daylight… I’d planned my trip to see the ultimate sight – the Taj bathed in the light of a full moon… but soon learned that, for security reasons, the place was going to close at dusk. We left just as the rising full moon made the most of its opalescent splendor – in the distance.
For reasons that escape me, I had made a hotel reservation for the night in Jaipur, about 260 kilometers away.  In India they drive on the left, where I have never really felt comfortable.  But that uneasiness is nothing compared to the way it feels to be on the right in India, which is where we were most of the time because my driver was passing everything on the road -- camel caravans, bicycles, still-smoldering wrecks, cattle, paan-encrusted buses, jewelry salespersons, small restaurants, vehicles being repaired (protected by a row of boulders rolled onto the road), other terrified tourists, plus about a million of the regular things you’d expect to find on a highway. 
After a very brief stop to stumble around ‘the Emperor’s Dream City,’ Fatehpur Sikri, where we discovered virtually the only light source was that moon I’d traveled all the way to India to see, we negotiated the remaining distance to Jaipur, arriving a little after midnight.  I’m pretty sure that less than half of the other users of the road had lights.  And I’ve never been so scared in my life.
It was during this drive I formulated my spectacular but weird ideas of what Fatehpur Sikri might look like if you could actually see it.  I may have still been under this influence years later when I painted this picture.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Creative Archaeology

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Nubian Garden – a diptych in the fourth dimension
Watercolour, gouache and crayon
©2012 Charlene Brown

The right panel of the diptych above is based on the photograph on the right that I took on a University of Victoria Travel Study program in Egypt in 2008. It shows a relief sculpture (reassembled from shards) on a wall in Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el-Bahri, across the river from Luxor. The mural illustrates an expedition to the Land of Punt, an exotic country on the Red Sea coast in what is now Northern Sudan.
I think any picture of the Upper Nile has to include the pyramids of the Black Pharaohs – I’ve never seen them, but I find their design fascinating. They are smaller, pointier and far more numerous than the more famous pyramids near Cairo. The fact they were built hundreds of years after the gardens of Punt were sculpted at Deir el-Bahri and are near the Nile, rather than the Red Sea, stopped me briefly…  until I thought of presenting the time/space divide as a diptych…

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Painting Plein Air on Gozo

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Mnajdra, Island of Gozo, Malta
Watercolour and ink
©1999 Charlene Brown

Anyone familiar with the Neolithic temple of Hagar Qim at Mnajdra on the island of Gozo will know that it doesn’t line up with Filfa Island quite as picturesquely as shown here. And the folks who passed by as I was sketching this were certainly happy to point that out to me. In fact, you could barely see Filfa at the time, and they were happy to share this information with me as well.
Many artists love painting in public and interacting with passers-by, and they feel they learn a lot from people’s comments. I would like to be like that, but I still tend to seek out a corner to back into when painting en plein air so I won’t have to explain the (not always intentional) idiosyncrasies in my composition and techniques.
I’m thinking of gathering together some of my paintings that were at least partially painted en plein air, and posting them with the often hilarious conversations I got caught up in (or sometimes just overheard, which is even worse) while painting them. Some of the postcards I’ve painted for A Postcard From My Walk will be in this category…

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Virtual Paintout in Summit County, Colorado

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Breckenridge from County Road 10
Watercolour
©2012 Charlene Brown

The Virtual Paintout  is in Summit County, Colorado this month. I decided to look for a location to paint in Breckenridge because it was one of the few places photographed in winter and because I skied there once, forty years ago. I'm pretty sure there were nowhere near as many ski runs then, BTW. 
Very quickly, I found this stunning view in Google Streetview.  It reminded me of a painting of the Whistler ski area that I put on my blog during the run-up to the 2010 Olympics and I considered altering the colours to match the ‘alpenglow’ in the Whistler painting… But then couldn’t figure out just where the sun would set in this west-facing view of Breckenridge and decided the whole idea was a little too inventive.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Plan for 2012

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The Eagle and the Bear face off at Lake Louise
Watercolour and gouache (and ice)
©2012 Charlene Brown

Here's how I think I did with respect to following my plan for 2011:
As usual, I tried to paint more spontaneously and to move away from representative painting… and as usual, I didn’t make much progress in ‘abstracting’ landscapes, but was quite happy with some of the ‘stylized’ paintings I completed during a cruise on the Danube and Rhine Rivers in October.
In addition to the river cruise paintings and several paintings of Honduras, my travel journaling included getting a good start on a really big project I’d been putting off since 2000!  It’s an illustrated journal of our two-month Retirement Grand Tour of Europe on our way back to Canada from Dubai. I used several painted postcards I retrieved from people to whom I’d sent them back in 2000, completed six new paintings for this journal, then I added some photos from the trip. I've completed a 28 page draft, with 45 pictures so far, which you can glance through here if you like…
I’ve participated in a couple of great group blogs, completing 11Virtual Paintouts in 2011, and sending and receiving dozens of hand-painted postcards on APostcard From My Walk.  
I completed a project about poster production, MakingArt with Impact, involving a combination of computer collage and lettering.

And here’s the plan for 2012:
I hope to continue shifting away from representative landscapes toward more stylized (and rearranged) paintings, beginning with ‘The Eagle and the Bear face off at Lake Louise.’
I’m planning to continue travel journaling (and, of course, traveling) as much as I can. Eventually I hope to take the trip to Israel I mentioned in ‘My Plan for 2011’ that somehow became a trip to Honduras, but that won’t be this year -- my travel plans for this year include some of the most spectacularly beautiful parts of Canada and the United States.
I love group projects such as Virtual Paintout, Sketchercise, and Plein Air Artists, and hope to increase my participation in these.
I plan to do more computer collage, and possibly video painting, involving background paintings of Canadian landscapes.